Driscoll’s cultivates digital strategy with AI, blockchain

The berry producer is exploring emerging technologies to establish a holistic view of the business, from research and development to business operations.

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Agriculture companies are always striving to produce better tasting, longer lasting fruits and vegetables. Whether it’s corn or berries, produce diminishes in value the minute it goes from the stalk or vine to the market.

Driscoll’s, a $3.5 billion provider of berry plants, is turning to emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), the internet of things (IoT) and blockchain, to produce hardier plants and fortify its supply chain.

“We’re just scratching the surface on building an integrated data platform strategy that will take advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning, both for R&D genetics and on the value chain of fruits as well as business operations,” Driscoll’s CIO Tom Cullen tells CIO.com.

Driscoll's develops and leases strains of berry nursery plants — strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries — to growers around the world, from the Americas to New Zealand, China and Australia. Growers produce berries and ship them to Driscoll's, which in turn ships out the berries for sale under its own name at Walmart, Whole Foods, Kroger and several other retailers.

Solving the short shelf life challenge

Fruit’s short shelf life poses a perennial challenge for Driscoll’s, which receives, cools and ships as much as 30 million pounds of berries per week during peak season. When fruit arrives at the company’s distribution centers, 75 percent must be shipped out that day or the company risks bottlenecks in its supply chain, according to Cullen. Moreover, environmental factors, such as powdery mildew, threatens sensitive berry plants. Cultivating more resilient strains of nursery plants is paramount.

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