Nick Palczynski – Cadre – Ep 09

Nick Palczynski, Co-Founder at Cadre

In this episode of “Let’s Talk Farm to Fork”, we’re joined by Nick Palczynski from Cadre, who we will be talking to about how their revolutionary technology leverages AI and allows farmers to measure and prevent fresh produce losses in real-time.


[00:00:00] Alex Mospanyuk: Hi there. My name is Alex Mospanyuk and welcome to “Let’s Talk Farm to Fork”, the PostHarvest podcast that interviews people of interest across the food supply chain. Today on our show, I am joined by Nick Palczynski of Cadre AI. Cadre AI has helped create a revolutionary technology that leverages AI and allows farmers to measure and prevent a loss of fresh produce in real-time.

So with no further delays, let’s get started.

Hello, Nick, how are you today? Thanks for joining.

[00:00:26] Nick Palczynski: Good morning, Alex. I’m doing well. Thank you. How are you?

[00:00:29] Alex Mospanyuk: I’m doing okay. I’m really glad. It’s Friday. Um, where are you currently in the world?

[00:00:33] Nick Palczynski: I am currently in Northern Illinois. We were about 60 miles west of the city of Chicago.

[00:00:39] Alex Mospanyuk: Oh gosh. That’s so cool. And is that where you guys are headquartered or?

[00:00:42] Nick Palczynski: Uh, so FarmWave and Cadre are headquartered out of Atlanta, Georgia. Um, and have been in that area for eight years roughly. We expanded up to the Midwest, opening up our Chicago location. I use air quotes on Chicago, for geographic reference only. 

But, uh, yeah, Northern Illinois for another office and having closer ties to the agricultural community up here in the Midwest.

[00:01:07] Alex Mospanyuk: Oh, wow. That totally makes sense. Um, before we get into it and they tell me a little bit about yourself, your company, and maybe a fun fact that not many people know about you.

[00:01:17] Nick Palczynski: Sure. Sure. So I’m the chief business development officer at Cadre AI and we’re going to talk about one of our products today called FarmWave. We started out with this project about eight years ago from the agricultural perspective, and it has grown and morphed into some really incredible things for us here and the agricultural community. 

By leveraging the power of AI, and computer vision, and image recognition, we’ve really brought some neat things to the market that we’re excited and look forward to talking about today. Something fun and exciting about me. Well, I have three kids, they were born three years apart and they were all born in three different states. So to put that in perspective, we were doing a lot of moving during that process, so that’s sort of a fun fact I guess.

[00:02:03] Alex Mospanyuk: Okay. Yeah, sounds really full on. Tell us a little bit about your innovative product. Is it multiple products underneath the same company umbrella? What’s the purpose and where does it operate within the supply chain?

[00:02:13] Nick Palczynski: Yeah. Great question. So Farmwave is a product of Cadre. And uh, we’ve set it up that way because the technology itself is sort of agnostic, right? It doesn’t matter what the data inputs are for it as, as you’re probably aware in the field of AI, but the FarmWave product specifically focuses on a couple of different things within agriculture.

The first is that for the first eight years of the business existence we spent that time building out a proprietary data library. Specifically tagged and categorised for the use of artificial intelligence with artificial intelligence. That whole data library is built around plant and pest diseases and identification.

So using AI and the ability to leverage the technology anywhere in the world to take a picture of a crop and for the AI to return a result of what that disease or pest might be in a crop.

[00:03:10] Alex Mospanyuk: Right. So in terms of a bottom line solution, does it help identify issues quicker using the technology or?

[00:03:16] Nick Palczynski: Absolutely. Right. So what may have taken, maybe a week or so to get an agronomist out to the field, can be identified and shared in a community very, very quickly. So that tool allows growers to communicate.

We we’ve actually have a, a strong following in India and Europe and some of the other countries where it’s harder to get agronomists out to the field to help growers small holder growers make decisions on what’s happening in their fields.

So it gives those growers the ability to connect and communicate with some of the partners that we have here that are working in the app in the United States, helping growers around the world.

[00:03:55] Alex Mospanyuk: Oh, that is so incredible. And so do you have competitors currently? Are you kind of first to market? And if you do, what separates you from them? 

[00:04:03] Nick Palczynski: Yeah. So that’s a great question. I think the second piece of farm wave and probably the more interesting piece is the harvest loss technology. So I’ll explain that. And then we can talk about some of the competitors things. Cause there are a lot of companies out there that are doing the pest and disease recognition via mobile apps and things like that.

So the second portion of the FarmWave product offering is our harvest vision system. It’s actually a subscription where a grower pays the annual subscription and they get access to our technology via a vision system that we have created. So this vision system goes directly onto a piece of machinery for the growers when they start to harvest.

They turn on our system and Alex, what used to take anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes, checking losses from a combine or during harvest season, now we’re taking 140 plus pictures per acre and returning actual grain loss counts to the grower in the cab, and so they are able to make decisions on where the system is showing that loss event occurring. 

So whether it’s from the left side of the header or coming out the rear of the machine, our computer vision system is able to recognise those kernels, count those kernels and show in real time, the grower and tell the grower, “Hey, you’re losing corn out the back of the machine, you’re losing extra soybeans off the right side of the header”, or whatever that case might be. 

That’s what the technology is capable of, and that’s what we’re doing with it today.

[00:05:34] Alex Mospanyuk: Okay. That is so incredible. And so do you guys have any current case studies on exactly how much you’re helping the farmers save?

[00:05:41] Nick Palczynski: Yeah. So that’s a great question. So harvest loss in general is a pretty significant problem for growers. The machines, the combines do a great job, right? But they have to be optimised throughout the field, and throughout the season, as crop conditions change as weather changes, as the humidity changes and fluctuates, it does different things to the crop.

And so if a farmer is not continually changing and tweaking the settings on the combine. They may be leaving more and more grain in the field and not, you know, not getting it into their, into the combine where they can get paid for it, right? In 2020 alone harvest loss for corn was a $2.7 billion problem.

When we think about that, if if a grower wants to invest the time to identify where the loss events are taking place, there’s a lot of time that goes, gets wrapped up into that process. And what we have found is that many times there’s rain coming, you’re getting towards the end of the season, farmers just have to get that crop out of the field.

And so they don’t put a whole lot of effort or time into checking losses because of all the different pressures within agriculture and things that need to be accomplished before the bad weather arrives or rain shows up and they can’t get that, that crop out of the field. 

So that was the big challenge that we set out to help growers be more efficient. Uh, you know, and we’ll talk about sustainability here in a little bit, but it all starts in the field, right? From a waste perspective.

[00:07:16] Alex Mospanyuk: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, our company primarily focuses on losses throughout the supply chain, but it is so cool to see companies like yours, that focus on the actual field and the massive losses that are happening there. I mean, $2.7 billion is so much money and it’s crazy and good for you. Um, what big surprises have you found working within the AgTech industry in relation to fruits and vegetables and why was that the biggest surprise?

[00:07:38] Nick Palczynski: Yeah. So I think the biggest surprise when we started out let’s use our project specifically, was just how large of a number loss was, or loss is across the entire supply chain, right? And your company knows the losses upstream in the supply chain far better than we do. We look at the losses as they’re coming out of the field, right?

As, as harvest is taking place and that, that could be anything from potatoes to blueberries or strawberries or corn and soybeans, right? There’s loss events occurring in all our harvest processes. 

So being able to identify what are those losses and what can be done from the harvester, from the picker to the entire harvest process, what can be done to help retain more berries? More soy beans? More corn kernels?

Whatever the crop might be, how can we help the grower to make better decisions and retain more of the crop that they’re growing? 

[00:08:36] Alex Mospanyuk: Yeah, well, that was really well said. And what is something people might seem to misunderstand about your line of work when it comes to fresh produce?

[00:08:44] Nick Palczynski: That’s a great question. One of the things that when we started out this harvest loss project specifically was that growers had sort of accepted the fact that, “Hey, loss is what it is and there’s not much we can do about it”.

And we don’t suggest that there will ever be a day that a farmer is able to get every kernel of corn out of the field, we recognise that loss happens.

But, what I think was so surprising to us was how great those loss events can be. I mean, we were with growers last fall were at periods of time during the harvest process, they were leaving 10 bushels of corn in the field and they didn’t even know what was happening. 

So we’re using our system to show them those loss events and again, combines are incredible pieces of machinery and there’s a lot of different adjustments that can be made to retain a lot of that greatness. 

So I think that to answer your question, the thing that surprised me the most was just how loss in general is sort of just a, “Hey, it happens you know, if we can sort of tweak it to make it better, that’s great, but we don’t actually know what we’re leaving in the field”. 

That was some of the biggest sort of aha or surprise moments for us as we started through this process.

[00:09:55] Alex Mospanyuk: Yeah. Wow. That’s amazing. And so what do you think is probably one of the biggest pain points or blind spots currently in the industry?

[00:10:03] Nick Palczynski: There’s a lot of really incredible technologies coming out, right? And I think as we look at the agricultural industry as a whole, we’re rapidly moving towards new technologies and ways to automate processes that have been very manual for as long as agriculture has been around.

One of the things that I think remains a challenge here in the US I think we’re fortunate we have better adoption. But all the way across the board in general, I think adoption is always going to be a challenge in agriculture, because there’s the way that, you know, dad did it, and granddad did it, and great granddad did it, how we’ve always done it, right? 

So there’s a lot of really forward thinking growers out there, but I think that part of the challenge that agriculture faces is just, it’s been done this way for so long and adoption is a slow process, I guess.

[00:10:54] Alex Mospanyuk: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s been said quite openly that the agricultural industry is probably the last to be disrupted by technology yet, it’s probably the one that needs to be disrupted by tech the most. And so I think the fact that you’re in the forefront of it all is actually really, really special. 

[00:11:08] Nick Palczynski: Yeah, and I, and I think there’s a lot of disruption that can take place. Technology has the ability to create such an immense amount of value in agriculture across the entire supply chain, right? From the time that those seeds go in the field to the time that they’re, you know, the harvesters rolling through, there’s so many areas that technology can improve and, you know, create more efficiencies for growers that it’s just, it’s a really, really exciting time.

[00:11:37] Alex Mospanyuk: Yeah, it definitely is. And so the pandemic, I mean, has it had any kind of an effect? I mean, I’m sure it has, but what kind? And yeah, tell us about it. 

[00:11:45] Nick Palczynski: Yes, that’s a great question. So last year we launched our sort of first commercial product of the harvest vision system. And with it being sort of in the thick of the pandemic, one of the things that was challenging for us was to, sort of scale that product launch to other areas of the country.

We were limited by travel. We actually have customers over in Europe and in South America, and in Canada, so getting to some of those other places to get the products out there just simply didn’t happen last year.

And it was a, it was a bit discouraging for us to say. You know, we have to put, we have to put some of these expansion plans on hold because we just can’t facilitate getting product there.

Borders were closed, there was no travel. Certainly some of the conferences being shut down last year, that had an effect on where we sat. But, you know, all, I think we’ve been pretty fortunate to weather the craziness of the last year and a half.

[00:12:40] Alex Mospanyuk: Yeah. Well, it seems like you’ve done well, despite the circumstances. So when it comes to food loss, food waste and sustainability, what is the biggest thing that you’re curious about right now? And what are some of the things that you’re researching the most? 

[00:12:51] Nick Palczynski: Yeah. So, you know, as we, as we talked about and the ability for technology to disrupt the agricultural industry. I think from where we sit today, harvest loss occurs in all of those different crops like wheat, like we talked about from potatoes, the soybeans, right? It’s those loss events are taking place.

So as we get more ingrained with the growers, they’re asking, “Hey, when is it going to be ready for, you know, your harvest loss technology? When is it going to be able to tell me how many, lentils I’m leaving in the field, or how many canola seeds I’m leaving in the field or. All of the different crops that are row crops or berries, or”, it just takes time, right? 

And part of the process is you got to collect the data, you got to make sure the data is clean and can be used for building models. And so all of these things take so much time that, you know, growers want to see all these new crops and have everything available to them right now. And it’s just a process, right?

So we’re slowly, you know, building out the offering. And one of the things that we are doing differently than some in the industry is when we create a, let’s say we bring out a new crop model for our subscriber base it’s available. So we understand that some growers may not have wheat for example, or barley, but when those new crop models are made available, they’re made available to our entire subscriber base.

So we’ve taken the approach of when there’s an update or an upgrade. All of that is going to be made available to anybody that’s using the plan.

[00:14:25] Alex Mospanyuk: Yeah, absolutely. And so are there any innovations in the industry right now that you’re excited about? and why?

[00:14:32] Nick Palczynski: Yeah. So we’ve been ingrained from a machinery perspective for so long now for the last two and a half years. And I think just all across all of the pieces of machinery, whether it’s tractor technology, sprayer technology, harvester technology, there’s so many neat things that are happening from that perspective.

And I look at, for example, what Elon Musk has done to the car industry, and I, I’m waiting for somebody to take a piece of machinery and completely flip it on its head, right? 

And change, you know, do a fundamental, just refresh of the machinery. But there’s a lot of really neat things that are going into the new combines and tractors and sprayers today that are just, they’re just fascinating.

And you know, the data that is coming out of them and the decisions that a grower can make with some of this new technology is just, is just incredible.

[00:15:23] Alex Mospanyuk: I love how passionate you are. Um, so what is something that you wish you would have known, uh, in the beginning of your career?

[00:15:29] Nick Palczynski: Yeah, that’s, that’s an interesting question. There’s a lot that I wish I would’ve known, I think, um, but one of the ways that I have always approached business and customer engagement and everything is, is just being a continual learner, right? 

I think it’s important that as things change in your life and in your career and, you move to a different part of the country, you embark on a new journey.

It’s, it’s all about staying as much ahead of the times as you can, and I try to do that by reading lots of books, podcasts, such as this one, it just, all the knowledge that is available to us today. If you’re not challenging yourself, seeking out other opinions, different opinions, um, I think that’s where we grow right? 

Is learning from and listening to people that may not share the same opinions that we do. And that’s something that I try to really take a focused approach on is, is seeking out different ways of thinking and people’s different perspectives on topics.

[00:16:25] Alex Mospanyuk: I love that. So always learning and as we come to a close Nick, I just wanted to ask, what is the number one takeaway that you want our listeners to absorb in this episode?

[00:16:35] Nick Palczynski: Yeah. I think the, the most important thing as we look from a harvest loss perspective, right? Is, is that there is a product in FarmWave that can help a grower to be more efficient, make better decisions and retain more of the grain, that they’re already growing. 

They invest a lot of money throughout the entire growing season and then we get to harvest season and traditionally it’s been a, “Well, we hope we have the combines set correctly, we hope that losses are minimal”. 

But there’s never been really a good, solid understanding of what was happening from a harvest loss perspective. So I would share, impart on the listeners that, uh, there’s a lot of really great technologies that were coming out with, and, we’d love to share them with anybody that would be interested.

[00:17:18] Alex Mospanyuk: That sounds really great, and so exciting. All right, Nick. Thank you so, so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.

[00:17:24] Nick Palczynski: Hey, you bet. It was great chatting with you. 

[00:17:27] Alex Mospanyuk: No worries. Well, that’s all for today’s episode of “Let’s Talk Farm to Fork”, thanks for listening, and thanks Nick Palczynski for joining me today. 

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