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How food and beverage manufacturers can explore AI

Reference: FCC

With an artificial intelligence-powered solution available for just about every facet of your food and beverage processing business – from quality control and cost optimization to supply chain management and even employee training – it can be hard to know where to start in the AI world.

Randall Craig, author and CEO of education and training company Braintrust Professional Institute, says the time for AI is prime, with support from application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow you to tap into the work of larger platforms.

While AI isn’t a substitute for human intuition based on decades of business acumen and knowledge, Craig says it can optimize multiple aspects of food and beverage production.

Craig takes a holistic view of the technology and says it will have a pronounced impact on every sector, including food and beverage production.

“Everybody is moving this way,” he says. “No matter what software you have as a food processor, it’s probably a good bet that if not now, then relatively soon, software developers will be coming up with upgrades or additional modules that will add AI into what you already have.”

AI has the potential to streamline, optimize and disrupt existing processes. And it’s important to note that with the speed that AI is advancing, the results will only get better, says Craig.

“There are far more data points in the machine-learning model to allow the AI to come up with better results,” he says.

Among some of the trends to watch for in the world of food and beverage processing:

1. Greater personalization

Depending on the amount of personal information customers are willing to share. AI can help food companies tailor products to customers based on factors such as dietary restrictions or health data. Are they diabetic or vegan, for example, or have allergies/intolerances?

“That’s an entire field where AI is king,” says Nestor Gomez, chief technology officer at Canadian Food Innovation Network.

An energy drink producer, for example, can tailor drinks based on customer needs and preferences. If a certain consumer segment has a lower tolerance for salt, a company can produce drinks featuring less sodium. And they can do it at scale, Gomez says.

“You can be much more granular and create a larger array of products without impacting your costs.”

Craig agrees, pointing out that the speed and testing of production can also increase.

“The whole question of product development is vastly shortened because you might be able to pop out a whole bunch of recipes and optimize them to the ones you might truly want to do some development on,” he says.

2. Augmented reality

A wave of augmented reality products powered by algorithms is being introduced into manufacturing. In food processing, advancements are reshaping the sector, not directly in the processing. For example, a wave of 3D imaging processes is deployed in areas such as employee training.

Among them is the Microsoft HoloLens, a mixed-reality device capable of layering 3D images atop users’ real-world view at the correct location, scale, and orientation. Users can interact with these digital objects through voice commands or hand gestures.

Similarly, the Quebec-based company DeepSight has pioneered AI-led technology that relies on 3D animations and sequences, enabling employees to perform tasks faster, safer and with fewer errors.

According to DeepSight co-founder and CEO Nicolas Bearzatto, up to three-quarters of companies currently use job shadowing to train their workforce, but technologies like DeepSight have the potential to be a game-changer.

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