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Imtiaz Shams just got into Buffalo a few days ago and he’s already got some powerful local backers.
Shams’ company, Flox, won a $500,000 award in the 43North competition in October and then closed a seed round in December.
He wouldn’t disclose the size of the round but said it included contributors from Buffalo, including ACV Auctions co-founder Dan Magnuszewski.
Flox uses imaging technology to help chicken farmers manage the birds in their facilities. The company’s camera/sensor technology can provide insight on their lifestyles, diets and flag potential health issues. It’s a business model that will support the bottom line of its customers, which are major corporate chicken farms, he said. It will also lead to healthier lifestyles for the chickens.
“This is about profitability – happier chickens grow better,” Shams said. “Then you can turn around and say to consumers, ‘We know how our chickens are doing. We have a welfare index and we can tell you, when you buy that chicken or eat that Buffalo wing, that it had a decent life.”
Flox has two major initiatives heading into 2022. The first is to turn its pilot projects with major corporate customers into long-term relationships. Shams said he will spend much of his own time making sure those projects are going well.
The second is developing imaging technology that can weigh tens of thousands of chickens at the same time, instead of doing it by hand.
He said that tool, along with Flox’s existing product suite, will help unlock his company’s value proposition as a software partner for poultry corporations.
“For chicken farmers, what we are doing is magic,” he said. “You are taking technology that is used to power driverless cars and applying it to an ancient form of food.”
Shams recently moved from London to Buffalo. He said he was attracted to the Great Lakes region because it is among the largest U.S.-based chicken farming regions, and because Ontario is the biggest region for that industry in Canada.
He said he plans to begin a series of conversations, from farmers to local universities to government partners involved in the farming industry.
Flox has seven full-time employees spread throughout the world. Shams said he’s looking to bring on two employees in Buffalo.
Shams said labor and infrastructure issues are leading chicken farmers to build bigger sheds and his technology can reduce that trend, which leads to healthier birds that live in better conditions.
“This is a large but very reclusive sector, and we think we can bring transparency to it while also improving the lives of hundreds of chickens,” he said. “Our tech can help reduce the trend of bigger sheds, going back to highly managed smaller sheds that are immensely profitable.”
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