How AI and machine learning are bringing major benefits to the food industry

December 8, 2023

Artificial intelligence or AI is finding application in an ever-growing range of industries – including the food sector.

The ways in which it can be employed are many and various, ranging from ensuring compliance with food safety standards through to managing supply chains.

According to reports, the pizza company Domino’s and the soup firm Campbell’s are among the many companies in the sector taking advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML).

Wizata, an company that supplies such technology, said that as well as optimising existing systems and processes, the technology is creating new business opportunities for the food industry.

An obvious example of where artificial intelligence is being used in the food industry is in sorting, a job that would typically require having staff beside a conveyor belt selecting items by hand.

Companies promoting their own technology say that it is able to sort produce by, for example, separating out vegetables based on size or intended use. Crucially, they claim that the technology can do this more accurately than people can.

“The best part is that AI will do most of the work automatically,” Wizata states. “Automation allows companies to save money by reducing manual labour.

“AI-driven food machines have advanced x-ray scanners, lasers, cameras, and robots that all work together to analyse food quality and sort it according to your instructions.”

How AI and machine learning are bringing major benefits to the food industry

Photo credit: Arno Senoner / Unsplash

Integrio Systems, another provider of AI and ML technology, highlights numerous other ways in which AI robotics can be deployed.

These include automated packaging, with advantages including the ability of robots to handle fragile food items precisely, which cuts down on damage and wastage.

“This way, you ensure consistent packaging quality, reduce errors and increase process speed,” Integrio Systems, another technology provider, says.

Artificial intelligence-enabled robots can be used in the transport and handling of raw ingredients, something that Integrio Systems said can, for example, reduce the chances of contamination.

Cleaning equipment is another area where there can be benefits from using robots that are powered by artificial intelligence or machine learning.

Advocates say that when cleaning is carried out by robots and machines, levels of cleanliness can be higher than those achieved by human operatives. Conveyor belts and production equipment are among the things that may be cleaned.

How AI and machine learning are bringing major benefits to the food industry

Credit: Conor Samuel / Unsplash

Some bakeries have employed people to watch production lines to check that, for example, each baking tin has just a single piece of dough in it.

But with AI-enabled robots, these types of jobs are no longer necessary, because the handling of dough can be done automatically, as can various types of decoration.

Aside from the various robotics-related uses, another key application in the food industry is in supply chain management. These technologies are used widely to optimise supply chains in a range of sectors.

“Machine learning technology can process and analyse data from every layer of an enterprise to provide both high-level and incredibly granular forecasting for demand, delivery, customer behaviour, and forward and reverse supply flow,” Integrio systems says.

With better management of inventory and pricing, planning is improved, waste levels are reduced and the costs of transport are lower, according to Wizata.

Another use can be in the development of new products, because larger amounts of data, such as on customer preferences, can be analysed.

Campbell’s is among the companies said to have used the technology to better understand what the public is looking for and to help decide on new product lines.

Ensuring safety regulations are complied with by employees is yet another role, as it can monitor production and even identify when staff are not wearing the correct clothing.

Ordering systems can be optimised using AI, with Domino’s said to be using the technology to improve the efficiency of telephone ordering. AI can also be used in managing product shelf lives to improve food safety and reduce waste.

And taking things right back to the beginning, there are myriad ways in which artificial intelligence and machine learning can be employed to improve the actual growing of food, including by determining the optimal conditions for crops.

Main photo credit: Arno Senoner / Unsplash

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