- Ex-Walmart execs build digital freight platform connecting produce shippers with truckers.
- Around 14% of produce loads are rejected because the food is inedible.
One of the advantages of working for a megabrand like Walmart (NYSE: WMT) is you get instant access to pretty much everyone.
“You get the meeting,” said Syed Aman. “You barge in and people will meet you.”
Aman knows whereof he speaks. He was part of the engineering team that built Walmart’s online grocery platform into a multibillion-dollar business.
Two years ago Aman and Sharan Grewal, also a Walmart veteran, left the retail giant to co-found Hwy Haul, a digital platform for fresh produce that connects shippers (farmers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers) directly with truckers.
Hwy Haul, like many freight-tech startups, aims to make shipping more efficient and less expensive by automating slow and cumbersome manual processes.
Also like many freight-tech startups, Silicon Valley-based Hwy Haul aspires to a broader social and environmental mission: in this case to reduce food waste, food spoilage and emissions generated by inefficient transportation.
Today, according to Aman, around 14% of produce loads arrive in inedible form and the food is tossed in the dumpster.
“That is the metric we are after,” he said.
Keeping fresh produce fresh
Hwy Haul has gotten the rejection rate down to about 3%-4%, according to Aman. It achieves that goal through improved route optimization, real-time load tracking, temperature and humidity monitoring.
Hwy Haul also offers a vetted carrier network and data analytics to help shippers leverage information from the platform to improve performance further.
A free driver app is available in various languages, such as English, Spanish and Punjabi.
Learning from the masters
The founders’ eight-year stint at Walmart’s e-commerce division taught them how to apply technology at scale, said Aman, the former Director of Engineering for Walmart Labs.
Another lesson learned is that technological innovation is hugely complicated and freight-tech enthusiasts shouldn’t immediately try and automate every step of the process.
“There has to be a method to the madness,” said Aman. Whereas other companies tout their AI and chatbots, he added, Hwy Haul also relies on what he referred to as “Human Intelligence,”f or “HI.”
A case in point: the startup hosts a human-staffed call center, open 24/7.
Hwy Haul has grown 200% in the past year, according to Aman, and has raised close to $3 million from angel investors.
Building a green reefer ecosystem
As for leveraging the Walmart brand name — Rollin Ford, Walmart’s former CIO and chief logistics officer, recently joined the Hwy Haul advisory board.
“We’re in good hands,” Aman said.
Hwy Haul’s growth comes as other players in refrigerated transport are starting to green the ecosystem. California, for one, is working on a new zero-emissions refrigerated transportation unit (TRU) regulation.