For most people, food technology implies process automation techniques that are applied towards packaging and transportation. However, advances in automation and an improvement in information technology (IT) services has led to the growth of advanced methods being employed in different aspects. In other words, the whole process of farming, harvesting, processing, storage and delivery,
can find advantageous utility of Artificial Intelligence (AI) & IT Solutions.
According to Dr. Vishu Gupta, Head of Research, TensaX Innovation Lab, AI techniques when integrated for food optimization, can find applications ranging from its growth all the way to delivery. With new technologies being used to improve food production, AI techniques enhance the predictions in food demand and the control of facilities. The Global food tech market is expected to reach 342.53 Billion USD in 2027, in comparison to 220.32 billion USD it was in 2019, according to Emergen Research. The main contributory factors remain the advancements in technology in terms of robotics, food processing and delivery. Where e-commerce has seen a rapid growth in retail, in the last few years, a similar assimilation has been seen in food delivery technology as well. In-fact using AI based mobile apps to get food delivered or to order groceries through different services, employs AI algorithms in the possible food suggestions, estimated times of arrival, prediction of availability of seasonal foods, and coordination with local food suppliers. So where specifically can the integration of AI & IT be anticipated in food technology?
For few places the availability of farming resources including the availability of farmable land may be a challenge, which is only enhanced by the increased urbanization. Vertical and indoor farming, along with the use of Greenhouses for farming in urban areas is gaining momentum, as a consequence. Management of these facilities and continuous monitoring are carried out with the use of network of sensors that are connected to a central controller, usually through the internet allowing a 24X7
monitoring option. A good IT infrastructure becomes the backbone in ensuring appropriate communication and observation. Intelligent control techniques are an essential aspect, not only in terms of monitoring but also performing weather predictions and assessing the possible impacts on the infrastructure. Harvesting and processing are being carried out with the help of advanced technologies such as robotics and drone based technologies.
New technologies, collectively being termed as electric noses are a part of the sensor & augmented vision based food sorting. These applications of AI basically allow for sensors to evaluate the quality of food while evaluating visual as well as olfactory parameters based on detection of certain chemicals. This is not only limited to processing but also in detection of any pathogens that may be present or may be present in storage. Although storage facilities have traditionally been designed to
keep out pathogens, when monitored by humans, pathogens may be introduced, leading to contamination. Storage facilities are, therefore, able to employ the use of AI to maintain particular conditions to appropriately store specific food types, while being able to assess the presence of pathogens.
Use of robotics and drone based technology for packaging and food delivery has seen an increase as well allowing for remote deliveries. Looking at food delivery, apps such as Swiggy and Uber Eats employ AI based algorithms that coordinate the food pickups and accurately predict the estimated times of arrival (ETA). Other applications such as Grofers and Big Basket have seen a jump in their utility as well with more accurate depiction of available food and improvement in services.