LAS VEGAS — Yumwoof Natural Pet Food is building a blockchain-based platform for the pet food industry that will allow any company to easily crowdsource participants for feeding trials and share the data with consumers. Yumwoof first launched in the US pet food industry in November of 2020 with its Perfect Kibble dog food, followed by the Perfect Dog Food Mix launched in August of this year.

Yumwoof plans to add several new products to both brands, which sparked the idea for the open-source feeding trial platform. As a new company, Yumwoof was looking for a way to include its customers and bring them into the feeding trial process.

All three of Yumwoof’s co-founders have extensive software development backgrounds. Jaron Lukas, chief executive officer, founded a venture-backed bitcoin exchange in 2012 that was acquired by Kraken in 2016. Yo Sub Kwon, chief operating officer, co-founded a cybersecurity company acquired by TransUnion, co-founded a high growth blockchain cybersecurity analysis firm, and recently developed technology to increase operational scaling for e-commerce. Raymond Bailey, chief product officer, is a certified web developer and ran a web development agency specializing in e-commerce. Bailey also brings to the pet food company a deep background in the culinary arts. A graduate of The French Culinary Institute, he was formerly a gourmet chef in New York City.

When the feeding trial platform launches this fall, Yumwoof’s co-founders plan to offer the yet-to-be-named, open-source software to the industry for free.

“It’s part of our initiative to be a leader in pet food innovation, and we intend to continue introducing new ideas that help the pet food industry evolve with cutting edge technology,” Lukas explained. “Our company mission is to extend the health span of all dogs, and this tool is a not-for-profit part of that mission.”

Lukas hopes by sharing their plans for this blockchain platform, other startups in the industry will reach out and share what features they would like to see included. Yumwoof plans for the platform to be a third-party, non-brand-specific tool housed on a separate domain.

“Ultimately, even though I would love to have all the SEO backlinks, we want to create something that other companies feel welcome to use,” Lukas said. “Even when Yumwoof uses it, it will be much more credible if it’s not proprietary under our domain.”

What Lukas hopes will interest startups about the platform is knowing that the process is streamlined and having the ability to conduct feeding trials correctly. Yumwoof is also trying to enable companies to leverage their existing customer base with the ability to offer a feeding trial as an incentive program to customers. Lukas sees his own company using this tool to offer a feeding trial to customers in exchange for discounts and free food. In addition to accessing a large group willing to participate in feeding trials, the platform could also help companies build deeper relationships with their customers.

According to Lukas, for feeding trials, companies rely on people agreeing to feed their pet a specific diet, sticking to the defined amount with no additional food or treats. The data collected from a feeding trail is relatively simple with a before and after blood test to measure health biomarkers in addition to weight and other metrics during the trial.

“I don’t think [feeding trials] will ever be perfect, but I think one of the added benefits the platform would offer is making sure adequate numbers of dogs are included in the trials,” Lukas said. “Typically feeding trials need to include a minimum of eight dogs with six lasting to the end. Even those numbers are probably not statistically significant, and if you have one or two pet parents in that group who are feeding their dog outside the prescribed feeding trial diet, that’s going to skew the results.

“My hope with the platform we’re building is for companies to get maybe 25 or 50 feeding-trial participants, and theoretically it’s unlimited how many customers could be involved in this type of crowd-funded research,” Lukas explained. “Decentralization is a core part of it because it’s all about creating a scalable model so you can get more statistically accurate results on top of what I consider to be a really cool relationship with your customer.”

The blockchain will offer verifiability to the data that will be entered by the platform users. The data will not automatically be made public.

“We wouldn’t want to put companies in jeopardy,” Lukas said. “We don’t want, for instance, a new dog food out there to find [from the feeding trials] that it has an issue and then have that negatively affect the company. We developed the platform so the data will be provable, verifiable, all entered on the blockchain and made available to the company and then it’s up to the company to make that available to the public.

“I think most companies will probably discontinue products that have negative data or make substantial changes to them and relaunch their feeding trials,” Lukas explained. “That’s what this is all about. It’s not about damaging the name of the company. It’s a tool that helps them create the best food possible and make a decision to either nix the project or publish their results and offer them as verification of quality.”

By collecting the feeding trial data on a blockchain, the public can know that the results haven’t been altered. That level of transparency offered by blockchain will help consumers trust brands who use the technology.

Over the long run, Lukas believes this platform could be used by the wider food and nutrition industries to run similar crowdsourced experiments on different diets, exercise plans and academic research. He said he doesn’t believe there is a competitive advantage for Yumwoof to keep this proprietary.

“Even though it is a technology that lets us do these feeding trials more rapidly in a crowd-funded and more innovative way, I don’t think there is a huge advantage to us keeping this to ourselves. I view [this platform] as a way that I can add to the industry and add to its progress. Ultimately, I want to see more pet food that is tangibly better for dogs. That’s why I think it’s in the best interest of all dogs to make this technology open-source.”

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