April 4, 2019 |
Even if food is a very analogue asset – the industry behind it has long ceased to be. Today we are looking at ways how companies are working with artificial intelligence to streamline the F&B industry.
In the field of supply chain management for example, AI could significantly increase efficiency – and sometimes does already. The German start-up Blue Yonder for example, has developed a software that is able to determine the shelf life of fruits and vegetables and then adjust order quantities accordingly. Customers already include department store chains such as Kaufland. The Norwegian company Tomra is also working in the same space as they are developing a technology that can decide just as well as a human which fruits are suitable for sale and which are not, when they get sorted after the harvest.
Blue Yonder’s AI however, goes one step further than simply determining the shelf life of the food, as it can also predict the demand for an item based on sales. With these predictive analytics forecast logistics could be based on more accurate data than before.
In supermarkets and other food retailers, customers could encounter AI in the form of sales robots. First models already exist and Walmart, for example, has robots that drive through the corridors and scan the shelves. If a product is missing or something is not stored properly, they report it to human employees who then fill up the shelves.
A bit less noticeable, but perhaps as helpful as sales robots, are chatbots who advise customers on their smartphones when buying. The discount supermarket Lidl, for example, has developed a bot called Margot in the UK, which helps customers buy wine as it advises on vintages, grapes and vineyards.
Also, Amazon’s supermarket Go wants to set new standards for the usage of technology and AI in a food retail environment. Numerous cameras and sensors register every movement and every purchase of the customers and link this data with the Amazon customer account. The image recognition in this system is very smart and Amazon uses it to record their customer’s actions and behavior around certain products. In this way, the online giant learns even more about the needs and preferences of its customers.
The agricultural sector offers great potential for the use of AI as well. An example of this are micro-chips that monitor the health of dairy cows. The start-up Smartbow, for example, produces ear tags for cows, while the company InnoCow carries the animals’ chips around their necks. Both technologies evaluate the data and learn to recognize rutting time and diseases.
Also for vegetable and fruit farming there are already technologies that measure the growth of plants and thus independently control the supply of water, light and nutrients.
In the area of food delivery, AI could also play a crucial role. Amazon, again, is working on a software which is supposed to predict in which cities which dishes and food items will be ordered when and how often. The right number of orders and the right route could be created automatically. Even autonomous vehicles are being discussed in the delivery industry. The US supermarket chain Kroger, for example, is currently testing such vehicles that can navigate on public roads without driver thanks to intelligent image recognition.
With all of the above mentioned examples, we see that there is already some movement in the tech industry on how to apply AI to foodservice establishments and we expect many more start-ups entering this exciting space in the coming years.
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