Grid Fruit

Grid Fruit

Brief Company/Project Description

Grid Fruit uses artificial intelligence (AI) and data to keep food fresh while reducing the energy needed for commercial refrigeration. The technology simultaneously procures savings for food retailers and provides grid services for electrical utilities.

Grid Fruit evaluates and then improves the performance of refrigeration systems in terms of energy and food quality. They plan to leverage this information for intelligent asset management including fault detection and predictive maintenance. Grid Fruit will also improve performance of refrigeration systems by providing custom operational recommendations. Finally, with better monitoring and control the technology will be able to leverage thermal storage capacity of retailer refrigeration systems as energy storage (thermal batteries) for the grid.

We Are Looking For

  • Pilot partnerships, e.g., with food retail stores, military bases, and distribution grids
  • Development and deployment partnerships
  • Industry mentors

Critical Need for This Technology

In supermarkets, 50-60% of the electrical energy goes to refrigeration.  Oak Ridge National Lab estimates that up to a fifth of this refrigeration energy is wasted with the legacy control systems and operational norms.  At the same time, data is collected from across the system and hardly used except when emergency maintenance or replacement is needed.  Grid Fruit uses this data to reduce the waste and improve the bottom line for food retailers that currently run at very low profit margins of 1-2%.

Supplemental Needs for This Technology

Electrical utilities have an ongoing need to smooth aggregate load across their service areas. Commercial refrigeration systems constitute huge cyclical power demands that often have a peak during the hours of highest residential demand, between 6 and 10pm. Grid Fruit is developing software to adjust high demands according to the grid’s needs, i.e. lowering peak aggregate loads to reduce fuel-burning power generation.

Competition

Most direct competitors sell bulky hardware solutions, typically thermal batteries that store energy as ice during daily periods of non-peak demand to then melt and reduce the need for compressor operations during peak power demand hours.  Grid Fruit’s software solution is cheaper and easier to install, plus the technology is more flexible to address needs beyond energy reduction. Finally, where competitors provide the same services indefinitely Grid Fruit uses artificial intelligence to tailor services to the individual refrigeration systems and iteratively improve them as more data is collected over time.

Potential Market

  • Retail, storage, and transport of food as well as refrigerated medicines and chemicals
  • Inventory, restocking, and sales tracking insights
  • Demand response services

Key Innovation

Grid Fruit uses AI digital controls in a breakthrough application, feeding a machine learning algorithm with data from real-time sensing. This technology provides holistic energy management for commercial refrigeration without compromising food freshness.

R&D Status of Product

Grid Fruit is developing the initial product from data they’ve collected in a pilot project since 2017.  Grid Fruit has set up a testbed of open top (display) and closed commercial refrigerators, all instrumented throughout with sensors that collect further environmental data.

Team Overview

  • W. Fabricio Flores – Director of Software Development
  • Javad Mohammadi, PhD – Chief Executive Officer
  • Jesse Thornburg, PhD – Chief Operating Officer and Chief Technology Officer

Advisors

  • Gabriela Hug, PhD – Associate Professor, Power Systems Laboratory, ETH Zurich
  • Soummya Kar, PhD – Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Afshan Khan – Portfolio Executive, Innovation Works (Ben Franklin Technology Partners of PA)
  • Sarjoun Skaff, PhD – Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Bossa Nova Robotics

Background Resources

W. Goetzler et al. “Energy savings potential and R&D opportunities for commercial refrigeration”. DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Building Technologies Office. Washington, DC: 2009.

J. Mohammadi. "Distributed computational methods for energy management in smart grids". PhD thesis, Carnegie Mellon University. Pittsburgh, PA: January 2016.

National Grid. “Managing energy costs in grocery stores.” E Source Customer Direct. Waltham, MA: 2002.

F. Miller, D. Walker, R. T. Faramarzi and V. D. Baxter. “Investigation of energy-efficient supermarket display cases.” Southern California Edison Company RTTC and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Oak Ridge, TN: 2004.

Company Profile

  • Total Amount Raised: $620,000
  • Status: Private
  • Year Founded: 2018
  • Patents: 2 provisional patents filed with Carnegie Mellon University
  • Primary Industry: Data Science
  • Estimated annual revenue: Pre-revenue
  • Employs: 2
  • Social Challenge: Food waste reduction, energy efficiency, and energy storage
  • R&D commercial collaborator: Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), currently seeking food retailer collaborators