Q&A With Rachel Gabato, COO At Ripe.Io
March 09, 2020 / MEDIA 7
Rachel Gabato, COO at ripe.io is a highly experienced and proven Product Management executive and advisor with experiences in designing, developing and delivering enterprise SaaS solutions for start-ups, mid-size and large companies. I have demonstrated success is managing solutions across all stages of the software lifecycle.
MEDIA 7: What is your favorite part of working at ripe.io?
RACHEL GABATO: My favorite part of working at ripe.io is the diverse background of people that ripe.io has brought together. We’re a blockchain technology company with a mission to build long-lasting trust and confidence in our food supply chain through a platform where everyone can access transparent and reliable information on the origin, journey and quality of their food.
Our co-founders originate from the fintech space, so they were very familiar with blockchain as a technology. They assessed multiple industries and identified the food supply chain as a industry which could be transformed by leveraging this technology. I didn’t have any knowledge of agriculture and the food supply chain, but I had a background in retail supply chain technology. However, we also have food scientists, data scientists, farmers, sustainable agriculture specialists, flavor specialists, blockchain technologists on staff; it’s a diverse group that has their own specialty but when we have ideation sessions, the education and sharing that happens is tremendous. This is one of my favorite parts of ripe.io – seeing us all educating, supporting and working together to work on our common mission.
If you would have asked me two years ago if I would be visiting farms, I would have said no. However, much has changed, and I’ve been on hog farms, produce and citrus farms, sugar cane farms, etc. and visited all participants involved in the supply chain. I find this space incredibly fascinating and interesting. I now have a much better understanding where food comes from, how it gets to us, how it’s grown and handled. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from our team and it’s the intersection of technology and solving the challenges of the food supply chain which I’m incredibly passionate about.
"The benefits of a technology platform are that each of the participant can share the information they want to share with the rest of the ecosystem. It’s posted to the ledger system such that everyone sees the same information at the same time."
M7: At ripe.io, how do you approach modern CX?
RG: At ripe.io we’re a B2B technology however, we’re still very much involved with understanding what consumers want to know about their food. We attempt to understand what data and information our customers are trying to share with their consumers. For example, if I’m a quick service restaurant or a grocery store focused on sourcing locally grown product that’s organically and sustainably grown, then I want to be able to capture the data and events of the supply chain which validate and allow our customers to maintain their brand integrity. If I’m a consumer of milk and I purchase a carton at my local grocery story, and, the story of where the milk came from is somehow shared with me, I would feel better about my purchase knowing it was locally sourced from the dairy farm in our region. I know this purchase is supporting my local farmer and my community.
Many of the large retailers, associations (e.g. National Pork Board or Dariy Farmers of America) and consumer product manufacturers have defined sustainability programs. With our technology we capture data and metrics defined as part of these programs which all these organizations to report, see trends and identify where they are doing well and where they need to improve. We provide this type of reporting allowing our customers to monitor and tell their sustainability story
So, while the end consumer isn’t our “customer”, we capture and post the data from the supply chain stakeholders to the ledger system allowing our customers to communicate and answer questions the consumers are asking.
M7: Did you always know that working in technology was what you wanted to do?
RG: No, I did not. I don’t have an engineering or developer background. I have a Business Management and Marketing degree with a minor in Communications and I just kind of had a knack for understanding the role technology can play in many different industries. The first technology company I worked for was a global sourcing and supply chain software company located outside of Boston, MA. It was a start-up and I was the 7th employee. I played many different roles, but realized I was quite good at understanding business processes and challenges then translating those business needs into product and software requirements. That was my first foray into the field of product management. Since then, 20+ years ago, I’ve been in technology in a Product Management role, primarily retail technology focused, and those skills have obviously allowed me to grow my career and become COO of ripe.io.
I’ve spent time in many different parts of the world, London, Hong Kong, South America, Europe understanding and building software for retail customers. I love solving the problem through technology then seeing it come to life!
"Consumers are not only wanting to understand what, where and how their food was grown but also want to purchase food from brands with which they align."
M7: How is a platform like yours transforming the food industry in the modern world?
RG: Historically, the food supply chain has disparate systems for capturing information across many different actors – farmers, aggregators, distributors, transportation companies, retailers, etc. There wasn’t a lot of trust and visibility or ability to track and trace the movement of the food product throughout the supply chain. Organizations would need to bring these disparate sources of information together. At ripe.io, we’ve enabled the digitization of the movement and create what we call the digital twin of the physical movement. If you envision growing a tomato, it starts with a seed, it grown in a greenhouse, transplanted to the farm, it grows on the farm, is harvested, packed, potentially stored, transported to a distributor/aggregator then finally to its final destination (e.g. restaurant, grocery store, processing plant). That’s a lot of movement and different people handling the food product. The benefits of a technology platform are that each of the participant can share the information they want to share with the rest of the ecosystem. It’s posted to the ledger system such that everyone sees the same information at the same time.
Traditionally, this information is stored in separate databases by each participant but now can be shared and validated, if needed. We’ve also enabled farmers to provide their data in a digitized format by developing a mobile application allowing them to scan their information through a customized QR code. This allows to start to track the food item at it’s very first step which is critical. Additionally, we partner with IoT sensor partners allowing us not only track the events the food product is moving through the supply chain, but also being able to capture the environment in which it was grown, transported and processed. Being able to capture all of this data in one platform has created some very interesting and actionable insights for our customers.
M7: What are your thoughts on the next transformation in the food tech industry?
RG: I see a couple of things, one is consumers are wanting to become more and more educated about their food, you’re seeing a shift in consumers wanting, even demanding, to understand from where their food came, how was it grown, who handled it. They want to understand the food journey. Consumers are also associating themselves and purchasing products from retailers/manufacturers that align with their beliefs and values. So consumers are not only wanting to understand what, where and how their food was grown but also want to purchase food from brands with which they align. There is huge investment in agtech/food technology, not only in platforms like ripe.io, but also in IoT, sensors, robotics, drones, AI, machine learning, etc. All of these technologies being developed, tested and deployed to enable a more efficient supply chain.
For example, drones can be deployed to take images and assist in detecting potential disease in the plants and you can be more efficient about how you manage farm personnel. Similarly, with the sensors technology, one can monitor soil and environment through food safety tests during processing, etc. There is a considerable evolution of technology trying to serve this industry. This coupled with consumers demanding more information, brands trying to provide answers to their questions; technology can enable capture of these different data sources allowing for brands to answer these questions as well as gain additional insights and analytics about their supply chains.
"There is huge investment in agtech/food technology, not only in platforms like ripe.io, but also in IoT, sensors, robotics, drones, AI, machine learning, etc."
M7: Technology still remains to be a male-dominated field. What initiatives should be taken in order to attract more young women in this field?
RG: It’s still male-dominated but you’re seeing women become more and more prevalent and established in individual contributor roles through executive roles. There are many groups supporting initiatives to become more engaged in this field, groups for coders, engineers, product management, executives, etc. There’re also many conferences focused on women in this field as well. We’ve also seen in our space where there has been grants where one of the outcomes is elevating women in the supply chain. I think it’s important that women support women as well. I mentor and advise product managers and individuals on their careers and general advice from my career. It’s important we share and support other women and help them understand different career paths in technology.
M7: Knowing what you now, what advice would you give to your younger self?
RG: The younger me thought I was “lost” because I didn’t have a specific career path. For example, becoming a doctor or dentist or engineer. It took me a bit to figure out that technology was where I wanted to be but I kept telling myself “pick your lane”. As I reflect, it’s OK that I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do as soon as I graduated. I tried different roles in different industries and found my way to technology. To me, that’s ok, be patient and ask yourself why and what am I trying to achieve, what did I like or not like and why. Additionally, as I grew in my career, speaking my thoughts and opinions wasn’t always a comfortable place, but don’t be shy. I realized as the more I shared my thoughts/ideas, some good, some bad, it’s ok because you’re always learning when you share. Sometimes people agree with your thoughts and sometimes not, don’t take it personally take it as a learning point to hear a different thought and idea. Sharing and ideating creates better outcomes. Use your voice!
We are building long-lasting trust and confidence in our food supply chain through a platform where everyone can access transparent and reliable information on the origin, journey and quality of their food. Ripe.io develops, deploys and operates a blockchain based network (SaaS) servicing B2B clients in the $150B global food logistics and supply chain industry segment. Ripe.io serves customer segments providing track and trace (for recalls and food safety), capture elements of quality (freshness, sustainability and flavor) and insures tracking the integrity of premium payments connected to data sharing and transparency. We are a team of supply chain experts, food scientists, blockchain developers, technology executives, farmers sustainability specialists united by a compassion for transparency and truth in our food system. Ripe.io was formed in 2017 and received $2.4M in seed funding by Maersk Ventures and Relish Works in August 2018. It has been named by Forbes as one of the “25 Most Innovative Ag Tech Startups”.