Startup Spotlight: Saudi Arabia-Based Uvera Is Here To Rid You Of Your Food Spoilage Woes Uvera's main product, Aurora, is a next-generation artificial intelligence of things device that can increase the shelf-life of fresh food up to 97% on average, within only 30 seconds and without using any chemicals.
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This article is part of an ongoing series covering startups that have been a part of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund (MBRIF) accelerator program.
Ever opened your refrigerator to find that the fruits and veggies you bought only some short time ago have already got spoiled? We've all been there. But when such wastage happens across millions of homes, it becomes a contributing factor to a very pressing global issue: food security. Tackling this concern head on is Saudi Arabia-based foodtech startup Uvera. "Food loss and waste significantly affect the global economy; according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, worldwide food waste cost is estimated at US$750 billion," Asrar Damdam, founder of Uvera, says. "To limit the severity of this issue, we invented a novel solution that can extend the shelf-life of perishables." Damdam is referring here to Uvera's main product, Aurora.
A next-generation artificial intelligence of things (AIoT) device, Aurora can increase the shelf-life of fresh food up to 97% on average, within only 30 seconds of use and without the use of any chemicals. This end-result is achieved by combining ultraviolet-c (UV-C) light and vacuum sealing- also known as germicidal light, UV-C light is known for disinfecting water and destroying harmful microorganisms in liquids, food products, and on surfaces. "Uvera technology has been developed to help businesses and consumers avoid wasting food," Damdam adds. "The technology can increase the shelf-life of fruits by up to 141% on average, vegetables by up to 123% on average, and meats by up to 33% on average, without any use of chemicals and within a few seconds of use, and it is powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to track the food inventory and the shelf-life of food during the storage period."
To understand how Aurora works, one could simply picture a device akin to a microwave. In the first step of this process, a user downloads the Uvera mobile app, and registers their newly bought device. After this, a given food item simply needs to be placed within a food container, and then placed inside the box-like device. Pressing a "start" button commences the 30-second process wherein the food item's shelf-life is elongated. After that, the container can be stored in a refrigerator or pantry, per usual. Uvera's main source of revenue will thus be through the sale of Aurora. "Our business model for consumers is hardware-enabled software-as-a-service model (HESaas), which involves selling the hardware device, while earning recurring revenue through the sale of additional storage containers, and the monetization of data through the mobile application," Damdam elaborates. "For retailers, we have developed a subscription business model. Through this model we will provide a package that includes the needed hardware and software to maximize the shelf-life of perishables, enable retailers to benefit from our AI technology to better manage the inventory, and, ultimately, reduce the wastage of food and increase revenues."
It is important to note here that Aurora is still in its manufacturing phase. "But we already had significant traction with our pre-sales campaign that we launched in September 2022, where we made $21,438 within one month only," Damdam adds. "As for the retailer's product, we are 90% done with our first minimum viable product, and we will be ready to launch our first private beta test by the beginning of 2023." But apart from product development, Damdam and her team have one other goal moving into 2023. "We are not in the UAE yet, but we wish to be there soon!"
Uvera is currently located in Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), and it operates in parts of Taiwan, Turkey, and Egypt as well, but its roots lie in Silicon Valley. It was there, in 2019, that Damdam's entrepreneurial inclinations first took form. "As a scientist, I've seen many great scientific discoveries that could revolutionize the way we live; however, most of them never see the light of day," she says. "So, when I observed the necessity for bridging the gap between science and business and getting gamechanging discoveries out of research labs, I became motivated to learn entrepreneurship. And with regard to the concept of Uvera, it was one of the scientific discoveries I looked into throughout the first year of my doctoral program."
Damdam's entrepreneurial skills and mindset have also since been spurred by her participation in the MBRIF program. "As an inventor and entrepreneur, I have come across all sorts of challenges in launching a new product, and I understand by now the importance of surrounding myself with like-minded entrepreneurs and mentors who are familiar with the obstacles faced by innovators," Damdam says. "Introducing a novel technology to the market is not an easy task. It requires commitment, specific knowledge, and expertise in terms of science, business strategy and commercialization. To succeed in this endeavor, it is important to find mentors that believe in innovation and are confident in their capacity to assist in the development of innovators. Therefore, we believe that the MBRIF mentorship will help us reach our short-term and long-term goals efficiently by enhancing skills and building an endless pipeline of collaborations with industry, investors and startups."