When Amazon bought Whole Foods and introduced Amazon Fresh, a doorfront delivery service for a customer’s grocery needs, a sigh of relief fell collectively. The ever infamous ‘grocery shopping’ seems to take a great deal of time and planning for everyone, and the ability to simply “add to cart” online introduces no-hassle ease in a way that’s hard to ignore. That is, until it’s time to shop for produce.
While it’s easy to stock up on the frozen foods and the boxes of crackers, customers prefer to hand-pick their own produce: assess for freshness, firmness, bruises, and any other markers of what they’d designate adequate fruit. Having another shopper or delivery service do this for them presents potential problems, such as a slightly too-ripe avocado or a too-green banana. So, while the way that we grocery shop has continued to change rapidly, there’s one sector of shopping that customers will brave the traffic, parking lots, and crowded stores to retain control over -- and that’s produce shopping.
Of course, produce shopping is only as good as the fresh produce that’s offered, which is why Hwy Haul has been making waves with its recent news of a successfully closed Series A Round of $10 million. Hwy Haul is a produce supply chain logistics company started by former Walmart executives with the mission of finding more efficient ways to transport fresh produce, and to do so with fewer hours and fewer trucks on the road.
Cutting Out The MiddleMan
What Hwy Haul has that other delivery companies don’t? The desire - and ability - to unite all the key stakeholders in the fresh produce business. Prior to Hwy Haul, the shipment of fresh produce would go like so:
1. A store would order fresh produce
2. A middle man would connect them to the closest farms, or farms that could fulfill their needs
3. An order would be placed
4. A third party trucking company would come in to complete the transport from the farm to the store
This process resulted in longer wait times, more complicated communications, and longer hours on the road with more trucks on the road. The issue with longer hours? In addition to the sustainability implications from the exhaust, fresh produce is an item that can’t sustain long shipment times. According to Syed Aman, the CEO and co-founder of Hwy Haul, “produce spends half its life in the supply chain, and more than $15 billion is wasted or rejected in transit every year. Existing produce shipping methods are largely manual, with poor visibility and communication within the supply chain. These inefficiencies lead to a further problem of empty miles and their associated carbon emissions.”
Hwy Haul cuts out the middleman, saving money, produce, and the environment by providing a platform for all key stakeholders in the supply chain to connect. This includes and links farmers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers, and the platform connects them with thousands of pre-vetted carriers. Hwy Haul’s overarching goal is to ensure produce is delivered efficiently, eliminating wastage, reducing freight's carbon footprint and creating sustainable future growth for all stakeholders.
The Process For Stakeholders
It isn’t just about networking or connection. The Hwy Haul platform streamlines everything - meaning shippers (whoever is sending off the produce) can hop online to check what loads they can book when it’s time to send a shipment. There, they find numerous options of shipments with quotes, so they can choose the best shipment option for them (by truck or otherwise).
Beyond quote and time slots, the platform also shares critical information for these shippers, such as the real-time monitoring of temperature and humidity to make sure the produce stays fresh every step of the way to its destination.
It’s easier for the carriers, as well. Hwy Haul’s platform is on an app that sends notifications to the carriers’ phones so they know when they’re booked, as well as what time and where to pick up the produce. This reduces time spent on the phone and any scheduling errors. They can also customize the shipments they want to book, down to details such as mileage, expected earnings, preferred lanes, times of day, and more.
Hwy Haul’s Technology
In addition to its user-friendly features and intuitive platform, Hwy Haul’s technology includes artificial intelligence, optimization algorithms, and machine learning, which brings the data it receives from these bookings and interactions to life. The technology was founded in 2018 and has already made substantial progress in reducing empty miles and connecting suppliers with carriers to streamline the entire process.
It’s the type of business that signifies a hallmark such as a $10 million Series A round. We know the desire to shop in-person for fresh produce is essentially bulletproof despite recent delivery developments, and its technology doesn’t just have far-reaching implications for the fresh produce supply chain. It may just make waves in trucking and delivery as well, as founder and partner of Eileses Capital Kishore Bopardikar noted, “The produce freight brokerage industry has been operating in traditional ways for decades. We are excited to lead this investment round for Hwy Haul and support their mission to digitize every step in the value chain and create a seamless experience for the food and fresh produce fraternity."