The food processing industry is benefitting greatly from the latest advancements in artificial intelligence, which is doing everything from helping to sort foods, maintaining top-notch health and safety compliances, developing new products, and bolstering the supply chain. The technology is essentially helping to streamline work processes, making the work of employees easier and making operations more efficient.
AI will never replace humans in the food industry, as humans will always be needed to oversee operations, repair and maintain old equipment, and come up with creative ideas for new food opportunities. The technology can essentially work side-by-side with humans to increase operational efficiency within the industry, potentially automating up to 90% of operations.
Here are four applications of AI in the food industry.
1) Sorting Food
It can be quite time-consuming to sort fresh produce in order to prepare it for the manufacturing of canned and bagged goods. For example, sorting the size of potatoes can help manufacturers make decisions regarding which ones should be made into French fries, potato chips, or hash browns.
One of the most advanced AI applications in the food industry is TOMRA Sorting Food, which uses sensor-based optical sorting solutions with machine learning functionalities.
It utilizes cameras and near-infrared sensors to view food in the same way that consumers do, and sorts it based on this data, saving time and money and improving product quality.
2) Improving the Supply Chain
AI helps with supply chain management, as food safety regulations have become more strict and companies need to be more transparent about their operations. The technology helps companies test and monitor food safety products at every step of the supply chain. It helps in creating more accurate forecasts to help manage pricing and inventory, while it also tracks products from farm to consumer to offer transparency.
Another key element of the supply chain in the food industry is ensuring that the food is transported safely from the farm all the way to the store shelf. Symphony RetailAI is one such company that is using AI to help retailers monitor demand accurately, ensuring they never get a surplus of food that may go to waste later on.
3) Ensuring Personal Hygiene
AI is also helping to improve personal hygiene in a food plant, which is just as important as hygiene in a kitchen, and helps to ensure that a facility is compliant with regulations. Companies such as KanKan have been working on creating smart solutions to make this happen as the business rolled out an AI-powered solution to improve hygiene in China.
The system, which can also be used in restaurants, uses cameras to monitor workers, and it uses facial-recognition and object-recognition software to determine if workers are wearing hats and masks as required by food safety laws. If it discovers a violation, the software extracts screen images for review.
4) Cleaning Processing Equipment
Another important element of maintaining health standards is with advanced processes that help to clean equipment. University of Nottingham researchers are developing a system that uses AI to reduce cleaning time and resources, potentially saving up to £100 million ($128.8 million) a year.
It’s called Self-Optimising-Clean-In-Place, or SOCIP, and it uses ultrasonic sensing and optical fluorescence imaging to measure food residue, as well as microbial debris in a piece of equipment. This is followed by an optimization of the cleaning process itself.
AI’s role in the food industry is becoming increasingly important due to its ability to help save food that may go bad, improve food workers’ hygiene and clean processing equipment more quickly. The technology ultimately has the potential to create a healthier and more affordable food industry for workers and consumers alike.