Government and agricultural organizations should consider leveraging IoT and AI to reduce food waste to not only solve hunger issues but also promote financial savings.
Food waste is among the main reasons why millions are undernourished today.
Countries worldwide are experiencing food shortages to feed the ever-growing population. Unfortunately, 1 in 7 people do not have access to enough food on this planet, according to World Hunger Statistics report. That’s about 12.9% of the earth’s population. And yet, an estimated one-third of the total food produced is wasted. Not only the food, but the resources that are utilized for producing the food also get misused. And that’s hardly acceptable, isn’t it? While citizens should play a major role in combating this issue, there are only a few people who actually take initiative. Governments, in collaboration with private sectors, should, therefore, develop strategies to eliminate this global issue. Developing stringent policies on food waste can be a key facet of the strategy. However, only enforcing laws and policies will not be the best option to obtain quicker results. The appalling statistics and facts on hunger and malnutrition call for the urgent need for proactive and effective action. While technologies are provenly helping several industries, they will also help the government and other stakeholders in eliminating the problem of food waste. IoT and AI are two such technologies that can be of the greatest utility here. However, before considering adopting any new technologies, the adopters should be well aware of the potential use cases where the technologies can add value. But for this, there is a glaring need to have in-depth comprehension and knowledge on how the technologies operate and can help. Hence, before implementing IoT and AI to reduce food waste, the adopters should have a fair understanding of how these technologies can be beneficial. Take a look at a few specific areas where IoT and AI can impact the food industry.
IoT to Reduce Food Waste
Large quantities of consumable, nutritious food is wasted, but how and from where? Does it get discarded in the production process, in the distribution center, or during household consumption? From the moment food is produced until it is consumed, food is extensively wasted throughout its lifecycle. Keeping in mind the fact that millions are starving, this concern needs urgent action, therefore. And to solve these problems, the government and the food industry must deep dive into the world of IoT. With multiple sensors and cameras spread everywhere, IoT helps in collecting meaningful data in real-time. This valuable information that is collected in real-time has the potential to reveal insights that will help the stakeholders in making informed decisions. Let’s have a brief look at how and where the technology can help.
- First off, IoT can contribute to the production process. Food producers may not realize it, but an enormous amount of food is wasted during the food manufacturing process itself. As the food production stage involves heavy-duty machinery, the likelihood of the equipment causing damage to crops is high. Some of the other factors include spilling, handling, and storing. To solve this problem, the first step is to identify the actual causes of food waste. And for this, tracking food waste in real time is mandatory. By embedding multiple sensors and cameras on the field, real-time details of the farm can be gathered. Using these sensors, farmers can track where exactly the food is getting wasted and take appropriate measures to reduce the same. Not only farmers but also the government officials can monitor the food waste.
- Besides, there is a great concern of food getting wasted in the distribution process. Tesco, UK’s leading groceries and general merchandise retailer, wasted 30,000 tonnes of food, which was published by the supermarket chain. Besides, the food waste that is generated in the retail industry is 47 billion dollars just in the US. Imagine the impact on the global economy due to food waste. Due to improper monitoring, the chances of perishable food getting decayed is higher. Besides, shelves must be properly handled and maintained all the time. IoT in retail can be used in these scenarios. Smart shelves, equipped with multiple sensors, can collect details on how the food is being stored and maintained. The collected data will be processed in real time to check whether the food is in the proper condition or not. Messages will be sent to inspection officers for carrying out remedial measures at the earliest.
AI to Reduce Food Waste
Now we know how IoT can help in reducing food waste. Now, let’s take a quick look at how AI can be helpful in solving this problem.
- A retail shop having a wide range of food items has to be replenished whenever the need arises. If the stock is filled before the food items are still unsold, the chances of pest attacks become higher. One of the many reasons for this is improper food stock monitoring and prediction. Instead of using manual methods, leveraging AI can make this process quick and efficient. By entering historical details on food stockouts, food that previously got wasted, and real-time shelf information, AI tools can come up with accurate predictions. This way, retailers can get a clear comprehension of when a particular food item will be out of stock. With accurate information, retailers can then order only the required quantities of food items.
- Another common reason for food waste is poor and inefficient food supply chain management. Many times, without checking the quality of the food, it is packed and distributed to the retailers. Retailers, without knowing this issue, fill their shelves with low-quality products. There is a high likelihood of such food getting wasted. To prevent such waste, food producers are trying an AI-powered food inspection system that checks the food quality before it reaches consumers’ hands. There are systems that can autonomously monitor, analyze, and assess the quality of food. The AI, ML, and DL components learn and interpret the hidden patterns that may not be visible to the human eye. In case a particular food is about to rot faster, the manufacturers can send this stock first to the distribution centers.
- From perishable food that gets decayed in the fridge to leftovers in a plate, consumers waste food enormously. With personalized AI-assisted cooking, people can cook their meals in appropriate portions. This can have a major impact on reducing food waste to a larger extent.
Along with creating hunger problems, food waste also has an adverse impact on the environment. The discarded perishables make its way to landfills. During its decaying process, methane gas is emitted. As methane traps about 25 percent more heat than CO2, it has a negative impact on our environment, leading to temperature rises and also health risks. Food waste contributes to 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Leveraging IoT and AI to reduce food waste can, hence, not just help combat the food waste problem but also fight climate change.