THOUGHTS

AI in Food Processing: What Are the Perks?

May 31, 2018

The food industry has always been slower compared to other sectors in adopting modern technologies. But, spurred by innovative startups, artificial intelligence (AI) may prove to be the exception. For the most part, the sector is a very high volume, low margin industry. Identifying innovative and new ways to gain even the slightest increase in efficiency can make the difference between a facility turning a profit or a loss. Therefore, some of the largest food processing companies are turning to artificial Intelligence technologies in an attempt to improve numerous aspects of the process.

Food processing basically involves sorting a large quantity of feedstock and careful inspection of the final product. It frequently requires the constant maintenance of equipment, storage, and workspaces in very specific conditions. Advanced technologies like artificial intelligence can revolutionize the way these operations are carried out. Let’s take a look at how artificial intelligence can revolutionize food processing:

Better sorting

Sorting is one of the most time-consuming processes for most food processing companies. Also, it is one of the most important processes. For instance, every orange, carrot, tomato, potato, apple, etc. is slightly different. A plant might need to sort millions of vegetables based on size, shape, and/or color. Earlier, a majority of the sorting had been done manually, but now, most food processing companies have embraced automation for the processes.

Furthermore, with the help of advanced technologies like AI that use cameras, Near Infra-Red (NIR) spectroscopy, x-rays, and lasers, it has become easier to measure and quickly analyze every aspect of the vegetable as it moves along. While older automatic sorting systems were just focused on sorting the bad from the good, machine learning and artificial intelligence created the capability to sort foods for their optimized use.

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 Improved food safety compliance

In a food plant just like in a kitchen, good personal hygiene is necessary to ensure food is safe — and the facility is compliant. Cameras installed in the kitchen or food facility ensure that employees are wearing masks or hair protection as required by safety regulations. Violations can be caught and corrected in near real-time. For example, KanKan, a subsidiary of Remark Holding recently announced a seven-figure contract with one of the largest state-owned enterprises in China to provide Shanghai’s municipal health agency with facial and object recognition. Their AI technology is currently being used in 200 restaurants and is soon expected to expand to 2,000 facilities. The system, which can be used in restaurants as well as manufacturing facilities, uses cameras to monitor workers and then employs facial-recognition and object-recognition software to determine whether workers are wearing hats and masks as required by the food safety law.

Develop new products

Food processing companies can offer an endless variety of options to customers given the different varieties of spices, flavors, and ingredients that exist. Recipes can be tweaked in an unimaginable number of ways. To decipher what exactly the customer wants is a big challenge in itself, and companies are turning to capabilities such as AI to help with that process. Food processing companies can leverage artificial intelligence to formulate new products. Wonder how? Machine learning and predictive algorithms can be used by food processing companies to model consumer flavor preferences and predict how well they respond to new tastes. The data can be segmented into demographic groups to help companies develop new products that match the preferences of their target audience. This would help companies to predict the success rate of a new product well in advance of it being launched.

Grow better food

AI could help farmers actually grow better food by creating optimal growing conditions and monitor the effects of variables like UV light, salinity, heat, and water stress on basil. With the data, they’re developing “recipes” for the perfect crops. At the farming level, AI is also being used to detect plant diseases and pests, improve soil health, and more.

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