Generally, when we talk about food, technology isn't exactly the first thing we think about. Yet interestingly, technology in the span of recent years has largely revolutionized our approach towards producing and discovering our food with the use of applications, robotics, data as well as processing methods.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) has laid the grounds for various fresh developments in the food industry. Ranging from developing robots that can pick strawberries to smart greenhouses that are able to manage the climate, the technological progress being undertaken in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and internet technologies has been unleashing fresh prospects for clarity and enhanced management over the food supply chain.
These advancements offer the ability to curb waste, enhancing the quality and security of food, making up for labor deficiency, battling crop pests and pathogens, and engineering fresh and enhanced food items. Be it drones that can identify damaged crops to robots with human-like sensory capabilities, the fresh progress in technology and applications has the scope of essaying an integral role in enhancing crop yields and handling the use of resources for coping with the demands of food production as the global population persists expanding.
You can sneak a peek at our blog on The Success Story of FoodyBuddy.
How has technology been revolutionizing the food industry?
From IoT, Big Data to Artificial Intelligence a wide range of technologies have been revolutionizing the food industry. You can learn more about the role of Big Data in the food industry through our blog.
Internet of Things -
The Food Industry has been adopting the IoT technology for a variety of tasks which include enhancing companies’ capacity of keeping track of food production, ensuring the safety and quality of the food, keeping an eye on the maintenance systems in order to avoid errors, and handle facilities remotely. IoT is also adopted to reduce food waste and boost yields.
You can learn more about what is IoT technology through this blog.
For instance, platforms like Centaur Analytics have generated tiny IoT sensors that can be established in bulk storage sections for monitoring humidity and temperature amidst transportation and storage to guarantee that the food is dispatched to retailers prior to it expiring. Meanwhile, companies like Sanku and Vodafone have joined hands for battling hunger by adopting IoT solutions for tasks like handling dosage to allow out of the way spread of flour at areas like the tiny mills in Africa, enabling efficient reinforcement of large quantities of flour in East African nations and distributing it across local populations.
Solutions powered by Artificial Intelligence have played a crucial role in automating various sections of the food industry’s operations particularly the monotonous, repetitive duties so that the more creative and strategic efforts can be concentrated on with more focus by the human personnel. The technology is particularly effective in sections in which enormous amounts of data are required to be processed for solving optimization issues and driving operational efficiency.
Below are a couple of ways through which the technology has been impacting the food industry on a global scale :
Artificial Intelligence based solutions
Handling the food supply chain: Supply chains have been undergoing expansion in recent times. Unlike the food supply chains in the old times which only consisted of a couple of food processing and packaging sections that were owned by a singular entity, the supply chain of the present has a more comprehensive approach. These chains have been bolstering to incorporate additional sections of the food-making procedure, from the areas like farms where the raw ingredients are produced to the retail stores as well as restaurants.
This makes the modern supply chains of the food industry more complex and intricate, handling which becomes a hassle as it requires a consistent assessment of the whole spectrum of activities taking place at every step, as well as coordination and transmission of the information to the right people for proper and smooth execution of the operations. When it comes to big supply chains, undertaking such tasks manually becomes a disadvantage and an inconvenience. This is where AI steps in to perform its magic.
The supply chain management systems powered by AI can be adopted for consistently monitoring and controlling the operations across the supply chain. By making use of wireless communications and IoT for connecting the food supply chain, AI ensures that each section of the supply chain operates in harmony together. Since items in the food industry are perishable, AI can be adopted for planning the ordering procedure in a way where the perishable items are not required to spend too long in storage to avoid deterioration of their quality.
Ensuring safe transit - Another area where AI can be adopted is for managing the conditions amidst which the transportation of food takes place. Food items, or rather the ingredients involved in preparing these items such as fruits, dairy, meat or food grains are generally degradable which makes it necessary to store and transport them in suitable circumstances in terms of the temperature and the humidity. In order to guarantee that these products are delivered to the processing facilities in proper condition, it is important that these conditions are steadily examined and preserved. Adopting AI which is combined with IoT systems will aid in promptly managing the conditions for storage and transit in order to ensure that the perishable items are delivered to their destinations in the best possible state.
Preserving processing equipment - The facilities of food processing generally comprise of constant production procedures which are undertaken by various machines. Since an error or breakdown in these food processing systems hinders the entire process, AI can be employed for ensuring that all the equipment is preserved in suitable working conditions for the required time period. The adoption of AI in the food sector has led to the trend of automated predictive maintenance. The AI systems can consistently stay updated on the status of the equipment and take up maintenance endeavors. This will help guarantee the smooth flow of operations, enhance process efficiency as well as the employment of resources.
You can check out our blog on 10 powerful examples of AI.
Enhancing food delivery - Food delivery is a budding section of the food sector with a high degree of potential. The adoption of AI becomes a common supporter for many food delivery platforms. To start with, AI is adopted by food delivery services for automating their marketing endeavors. The algorithms of AI examine the behavior of individual customers on their websites in order to understand their preferences. They determine the likes and dislikes of every customer in order to facilitate targeted recommendations of food and restaurants and also automate the tasks involved in placing the order, dispatching, and billing procedure, enhancing the efficiency of these tasks. AI also becomes a weapon to reduce human error in such tasks.
AI is also being adopted by various food delivery platforms to undertake customer service. Many food companies have been employing AI-powered chatbots to promptly address the queries of customers concerning their orders, settling trivial complaints, and directing the crucial complaints to the right people.
Robots in Restaurants
When we consider the post-COVID era, automating technologies can play an integral role in revolutionizing the arena of food making and the experience of dining at various restaurants. As per an analysis by McKinsey and Company, almost three-quarters of foodservice and accommodations tasks can be automated. These range through a wide number of activities, from industrial robots working in collaboration with AI, thermal scanners, lasers for chopping vegetables, grilling hamburgers and other items, or performing likewise tasks. AI is being adopted these days for tasks like enhancing cooking procedures such as improving recipes and the tasks of selecting ingredients. In the case of the front-end of restaurants, a certain degree of a shift has taken place, for instance, we can observe the restaurants steering towards automated services in which cashiers enabled with facial or voice recognition can undertake orders and payments and also assign tables.
In the last couple of years, 3D printing has become a popular trend being adopted in a number of industries. There have been many instances of 3D Printing impacting the food industry. For instance, food items such as NASA printing a pizza, when 2016 established BeeHex, a Silicon Valley-based startup, obtained a $125,000 grant from NASA to create a machine that can print pizzas for astronauts in space.
Natural Machines, a tech firm set up their 3D food printer, the Foodini, in 2014, which adopted the technology to prepare foods from blended whole food ingredients. The machine permits users to print out favorites like cereal as well as snack foods leaving out the extra ingredients which may be discovered in commercially-produced options. The tech firm has also been collaborating with the Icelandic company Matís for reprinting “ugly” fish portions into more engaging cuts for reducing food waste.
Another example of the application of the food industry is Biozoon, a German company, which has set up texturizers that can be combined with pureed ingredients and 3D prints to develop “smooth foods” which suit the elderly or hospital patients who encounter difficulties in chewing or swallowing.
In the case of the food sector, we can say that Precision agriculture has proven to be one of the leading players which emphasises on how technology can revolutionise this sector. This form of agriculture is basically the adoption of GPS tracking systems as well as satellite imagery for monitoring crop yields, soil levels, patterns of weather for enhancing farm efficiency and effectiveness. It allows one to not only observe what is taking place over the fields but also to adopt the interpretations gained through the findings for the purpose of testing out the soil as well as the well-being of the crops.
One of the notable ways in which they are accomplishing this is via the adoption of drones. These drones are capable of identifying damaged or unhealthy crops and attending to them promptly. The adoption of these robots doesn’t minimize the requirement for food workers but aids them in being more effective in their tasks. Through strict product needs at large volumes and demand for lower pricing, the aid of the robotic elements in generating a swifter environment for assembling more goods than what can be assembled through regular labor.
Packaging and Waste
One of the most considerable concerns faced by consumers is to gain access to sustainable and healthy goods, which is why a lot of attention is paid to labels and damaging ingredients. Various organizations adopt technology for helping them stay environment friendly. By adopting robotics and digitizing, food industry platforms can figure out alternatives for plastic and other forms of packaging which is damaging to the environment.
From micro packaging, edible packaging as well as packaging for battling bacteria, technology is being adopted in a number of varying approaches in packaging.
One application is Copia which adopts a food waste cutback dashboard for connecting businesses with surplus food to local shelters, after-school programs, as well as various nonprofit organizations. The platform’s analytic software handles and monitors their surplus to salvage money and curb their overall food waste.
You can also spare a glance at our blon on 7 uses of RPA in the Manufacturing Industry.
The constantly evolving advancements in technology have largely revolutionized the way that food is produced and served. From streamlining the process of processing food items, enhancing the food quality to reducing food wastage, technology holds the promise to play a major part in shifting the future trends of the food industry.