How Artificial Intelligence Can Help to Reduce Food Waste

Every year around one third of the world’s food is wasted. Experts believe that this number will increase dramatically in the coming years. It is feared that by 2030 annual food waste will hit 2.1 billion tons. But, on the positive side, it is believed that a solution to reduce food waste may already have been found: Artificial intelligence.

Food waste and food loss occur at every level in the food value chain. However, there are two stages where the problem occurs more frequently: at the beginning (during production) and at the end (when foods are in the hands of consumers). In developing countries, improper storage and transportation are often the cause food spoilage. In developed countries, wrong storage methods, misunderstandings regarding storage life or disorganized grocery shopping are among the main reasons why consumers dispose a huge amounts of food.

Manufacturers rely on smart forecasting systems

But it is not just consumers who contribute to the fact that more and more food is wasted every year. Supermarkets often have a large supply of goods, but sometimes the demand is low and products are not sold. This also applies to foods whose demand depends on external circumstances such as weather conditions. But even before foods reach the supermarkets, a large proportion is thrown away. Food manufacturers often have excessive stock levels and oversized inventories of raw materials. In many cases, these large amounts of food cannot be processed or delivered on time leading to their disposal.

Smart forecasting systems have now been designed to reduce food waste on the manufacturer side. Software based on artificial intelligence makes it possible to trace the path of food from farm to fork and to understand consumer behavior. This allows manufacturers to better calculate the raw materials and inventories they need. Experts predict that such intelligent sales forecasts will lead to less food being wasted during the production stage.

Smart systems can do even more: in order to reduce the amount of food that is not sold in supermarkets as the best before date approaches, smart software can be used to boost the sale of perishable products through price reductions.

Artificial intelligence requires large amounts of data

Collecting data in food production is anything but new. For a long time data has been collected within the different production processes, for example in fields and in production halls. This information is analyzed and evaluated at a later stage in the process. What is new is the larger amount of data that is now available. Artificial intelligence is able to use this information allowing the software to become smarter.

Whether artificial intelligence can really help reduce food waste will become apparent in the coming years. Currently, forecasts predict that food waste will continue to increase. While in 2018, 1.6 billion tons of food was wasted, it is expected that this number could rise by almost a third by 2030. Now is the time for both consumers and industry to realize that this escalation must be stopped. This can be achieved through the use of smart technology solutions and rethinking consumer behavior.

References:

https://www.bcg.com/publications/2018/tackling-1.6-billion-ton-food-loss-and-waste-crisis.aspx