Five Atlantic Canadian companies will gain access to funding and consulting resources to develop artificial intelligence (AI) supply-chain technology through a new program, Volta AI, funded by Canadian supercluster Scale AI.
Delivered by Halifax innovation hub Volta, the year-long program will offer participating companies up to $14,000 to help them develop AI products. Participants will also attend workshops and have access to AI experts and investors.
The aim is to raise the profile of AI in Atlantic Canada and encourage more entrepreneurs to consider the region.
Volta CEO Martha Casey said the program’s success will be evaluated primarily based on growth goals set in a consultative process with participants.
“It’s working with mentors or coaches to identify specific goals,” Casey said in an interview. “Not every company is going to have the same goals, they’re going to be at different stages.” She added that the goals might include raising a round of funding or increasing sales.
Volta will work with the companies throughout the program to determine whether participants are on track to meet their goals and, if not, how performance gaps can be addressed. Casey stated, “these companies are expected to grow” during the program.
Among other eligibility requirements, Volta AI participants must be based in Canada and have a focus on applied AI and intelligent supply chain products or services and a demonstrated customer interest. The program was open to applicants across the country. Currently, all of the companies selected for the inaugural cohort are headquartered in the Atlantic provinces.
Scale AI, which has a strong emphasis on supporting supply chain projects, communicated its preference for a focus on supply-chain technology in discussions about the program, Casey said. The CEO added that a cohort with a common understanding of the field will encourage collaboration and growth. “Particularly for something like this, there is a real benefit to being able to share experiences and … specific learnings,” she said.
The cohort includes five companies developing supply-chain technology, such as Milk Moovement, a cloud-based dairy transportation software company, which recently raised $4 million to fund its international expansion. Co-founder and CEO, Robert Forsythe said the program will help Milk Moovement’s software, which facilitates raw milk transportation between supply-chain members, reduce inefficiencies by incorporating AI.
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With AI implemented, Forsythe said, routes taken by milk truck drivers would be more dynamic, cutting down on transport times and unused space in trucks. Forsythe said he’s excited to be working in a team with the Volta AI cohort, adding, “we all feel that there’s strength in numbers.” Milk Moovement is comprised of 25 employees and Forsythe said he’s optimistic about the future of the company and Atlantic Canada’s tech sector at large.
“Atlantic Canadian startups are performing like we never have before,” he said. “But, I would say, we have a lot of work to do to get to the calibre to do these things globally.” Forsythe added the region is “at the very beginning of that” and advancements in AI will play a big role.
The other four companies joining Milk Moovement in the cohort are fellow agriculture technology startup, Scarcity Analytics, data transparency app Blue Node Inc. and ocean tech companies, eOceans and Marine Thinking.
Casey said, on an individual company basis,Volta hopes to see this year’s cohort achieve its ambitious growth goals. On a broader scale, the aim is to raise the profile of AI in Atlantic Canada and encourage more entrepreneurs to consider the region because, as she puts it, “talent attracts talent.”
Scale AI CEO, Julien Billot, said he’s encouraged by the “energy and vitality” of Canada’s AI ecosystem. “By activating this chain of innovation, at all stages of the company development, we fully realize our mission of economic leverage, the benefits of which will be measured over the years and decades to come,” Billot said.