The Story Begins
The Ceres Technology story begins with 2 young entrepreneurs meeting in 2015 to discuss real estate. Bobby Katoli and George W. Hoobler, III (Trey) met over breakfast one morning at the Original Pancake House on Lemmon Avenue in Dallas to explore the possibility of becoming partners in a real estate venture. Although that idea was eventually set aside, they continued to meet on a weekly basis and unexpectedly discovered a shared passion for specialty coffee. Following a spirited conversation about a magazine article that likened fine coffee to fine wine, Bobby and Trey decided to form a company that would provide premium coffees to high-end Dallas restaurants via a vertically-integrated supply chain – from bean to bag to cup. As a result, in 2017, Ceres Coffee LLC was established.
Shortly thereafter, Bobby and Trey traveled to Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Guatemala, and they visited several farms in search of coffees having a cupping score of 90 and greater. These coffees would be shipped directly from the originating farms to a Ceres Coffee facility in Long Beach, California, for processing and final shipment to Dallas, Texas.
Although pleased with the early success of Ceres Coffee and their business model, Bobby and Trey noticed 2 troubling phenomena: (1) their coffee would score from 89 to 90 at the farm but would retest at only 84 to 85 in the United States, and (2) the lack of visibility into arrival dates. Unsure of where and how the degradation of their product was taking place, the partners determined that the surest way to solve this problem was to literally follow a shipping container from one ocean port to another. As a result, in the autumn of 2018, Bobby and Trey boarded a container ship in Lázaro Cárdenas, Mexico and stayed aboard for 7 days before arriving in Buenaventura, Colombia.
In order to track conditions both outside and inside the container, Bobby built a handful of homemade sensors using Raspberry Pi components. These sensors tracked temperature and humidity, and each sensor included more than one communication technology so that conditions could be monitored in real time, with measurement data periodically transmitted over different channels to a basic application and dashboard that Bobby developed.
Using the data collected from the makeshift sensors, Bobby and Trey discovered that exposure to high temperatures and humidity greatly damaged the quality of the coffee. As for the shipment data – for example, where the product was at any time during the voyage – communications both aboard a ship , as well as to and from the ship, posed numerous challenges.
As a result of this experience and loaded with actual data, Bobby and Trey knew that they could solve their own supply chain issues, and they also realized that there was a massive opportunity at a global scale to deliver (1) reliable end-to-end supply chain tracking, (2) loss & spoilage prevention / mitigation, and (3) supply chain analytics. They also hypothesized that in addition to providing real-time descriptive and diagnostic data and analytics, moving further up the analytics spectrum to predictive and prescriptive analytics would bring larger value not only to clients, but also to those supply chain firms successful in this space. To capitalize on this larger market and broader value proposition, Ceres Technology Inc. was incorporated in September of 2019.