191 - Will AI help close the gaps in recycling? Apurba Pradhan from Everest Labs
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Apurba Pradhan, head of product and marketing at Everest Labs, joined the People of Packaging podcast from his garage in Oakland. The conversation began with basketball, as Apurba is a fan of Allen Iverson. They discussed how Iverson could play a role in recycling and if he could step over the Tehran Lou. Adam mentioned his experience at a chicken and waffle spot near Jason Kidd's high school. He recommended two restaurants for anyone visiting Oakland: Gus's Famous and Cowbird. Apurba expressed his excitement for the podcast and the conversation ended with a reminder to listen to Corey Cotters' sustainable Packaging podcast. The conversation begins with the speaker making up a joke about AI being used out in the world. The speaker then shares his journey, having been born in Nepal and then attending a boarding school in India before coming to the US to study engineering. He has worked in industries related to industrial and infrastructure for the past twenty years, and for the last six months has been working in recycling which he finds fascinating. He then talks about his experience in Nepal when he was wearing a takatopi hat, which he still has, and how it is a known fact that no one looks good in them. He then shares his experience of attending a boarding school in India for 10th grade onwards. Boarding schools are common in India and Nepal. The speaker is a Nepalese native who moved to the US and gained experience in the tech industry in Silicon Valley. He took a role at Everest Labs, a recycling company, and is focused on understanding the broader context of the industry and its impact on recycling, such as the packaging industry, the circular economy, and supply chain. He listens to understand what people need and tries to merge that with what the company builds. He has a good idea of the technology and solutions the company builds, but relies on the engineers for a deeper understanding. The speaker is a co-founder of Everest, a company that works to marry the capabilities of AI and robotics with what people are saying to help improve the efficiency of recycling. The company has been running for five years, with a product launched a year ago that has been gaining traction with Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs). Everest's solution helps MRFs automate the recovery process by utilizing AI and robotics. This allows them to quickly and precisely sort through commodity that is sold. The data gathered from the AI also assists in making decisions around equipment optimization and maintenance. The company is currently working with MRFs that have an interest in their technology to get the capabilities installed.
Interview with Apurba Pradhan, Head of Product and Marketing at Everest Labs
Conversation with Everest Labs CEO on Growing Up in Nepal and His Journey to Artificial Intelligence
Conversation with Everest Labs CEO on Tech Background and Education in Nepal
Heading: Marrying Technology and Recycling: How Everest is Helping Material Recovery Facilities Recover Better
Conversation Summary: Exploring the Value of Data in Recycling Facilities
"Exploring the Challenges of Automated Recycling Solutions"
Heading: Automating Murphs with AI and Robotics: A Discussion on Performance Guarantees and 24/7 Monitoring
Heading: Exploring the Growing Demand for High Quality Recyclables
Heading: Automation Solutions for Growing Demand: Apurva from Everest Labs Discusses ROI in Two Months
Interview with Apurba Das, CEO of Everestlabs AI
And then this industry is like, five years old. If you think about it started in 2018. So things are shaping up and policy shaping up. People are starting to think about how, like you said, the demand for high quality recyclable material is there. And so how do you get it to be high quality? Right? Like, you need automation and you need sort of QC quality control at the end of these facilities to do that.. So the demand is there. Demand is growing, and we are one part of the solution. I think there's probably lots of different solutions, but yeah, I think I was at a trade show and I was blown away. I was talking to somebody. They're coming from India. They're buying stuff here. They're buying sort of mid grade, high grade plastics because they can't get it in India. Shipping it back, processing it there, shipping it back here to meet the demand. Now, if there's enough money in the supply chain to do that I didn't ask him the nickel and dime of his business, how much profit he's making or anything, but he seemed like a fairly wealthy guy running a big shop.
And so we also know that they don't have the staff and the technicians and all who can sort of manage fleets of robotics, right? So it's kind of like, hey, I like what I'm hearing, but how am I going to do this? So one of the layers on top of that we've added is 24/7 monitoring and performance guarantee. So we actually release our systems and we basically monitor the performance, make sure that it's hitting a minimum threshold that's in our contracts that guarantee a certain number of picks per minute, certain amount of efficiency in that line.
We are working with all the Merfs that have an interest in this to get this capability installed. Where we are looking to go is the value that the data brings not just to the operations for the merths, but to people who are designing packaging for the producers that are manufacturing these packaging, for policy organizations that are trying to figure out what to do with recycling policies and producer responsibilities. And so that's kind of like the part that we're sort of looking forward into.
And we launched a product about a year, a little bit over a year ago that's been quietly gaining a lot of traction with Mirfs. So that's where we are. That's our bread and butter. Is we sell a solution that incorporates AI and robotics and we deploy them at Mirfs. And the whole idea is to provide them with data and intelligence about how their operations are running, but also help them recover. So automate the whole recovery process, because the recovery process in Merfs are fairly inefficient, and at the end of the day, there are people standing at the end of these lines that are cleaning up what's supposed to be clean streams of commodity that are going into the recycling supply chain. But there are people standing there because the equipment that they use, it's sort of semi imprecise, right? And there's sort of quality levels that when a Merv sells aluminum cans, for example, or pet bottles, there's a level of expectation around how pure that is.
I love it. And let's hang out on that answer here for a quick second. So you're spending a lot of time listening to both your customers or the consumers or these government agencies or whatever it is. You're gathering data there, and then you're taking that back and you're listening to engineers on what it is that Everest can do. So where are you at today in terms of either what you've built or what are you as a company doing to meet the needs of all these different stakeholders in the recycling space?