What is it?
Machines and systems that are programmed with AI can simulate human intelligence, can acquire and apply knowledge in order to perform tasks, solve complex problems, and improve performance. Machine learning is a subset of AI algorithms.
Why you should care
New food technologies and the introduction of AI programs in the computers that control production lines have the potential to change the way the food industry works, especially as businesses look for automated solutions to address issues such as supply chain traceability, production efficiency, food safety and quality control, and waste reduction.
Some of the manufacturing technology included under the category Industry 4.0 relies on AI to process the data captured by Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and connected remote access monitoring software. By using AI, businesses can collect and analyze data that enables them to generate business intelligence, giving them a competitive advantage.
Most AI-driven functions are machine-to-machine transactions. AI-driven systems can add value and efficiency to many areas in food operations, including to:
- Automate tasks across different departments, such as accounting, IT, customer service and marketing.
- Streamline resource tracking throughout the supply chain and ensure compliance from vendors.
- Provide data for forecasting sales, resource demand and R&D on consumer trends.
- Automate production activities, including management work.
- Provide more effective quality and safety control in real time.
- Help create “smart” factories that run more efficiently with less downtime, using less energy and lower operating costs.
- Help drive greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.
- Help scale operations using predictive technology.
- Offer real-time monitoring of security systems.
- Provide technical support for employees and customers.
- Monitor and automate social media activity.
- Provide customized offers for consumers based on data analysis.
- Perform self-service analytics.
Opportunities in Canada
There are a range of companies offering AI-enabled software and equipment to Canadian food and beverage companies.
Saint John, NB-based independent brewery Moosehead uses a conveyor belt at its bottling plant embedded with Internet-enabled sensors and data analytics software to monitor pasteurization, filling, labelling, capping and packaging, increasing capacity while lowering costs.
Sobeys’ fully automated Customer Fulfillment Centre, a $150-million, 500,000-sq.-ft. warehouse and distribution centre in Vaughan, ON, features AI-driven automated case picking and palletizing systems. The system can stack up to 10 per cent more products on each pallet, saving up to 40 per cent on labour costs.
Fredericton, NB-based Eigen Innovations produces machine vision solutions powered by AI to help businesses automate their quality control system.
Toronto, ON-based Canvass AI provides industrial AI software such as its Canvass Platform that can help food companies boost production efficiency and output, while reducing waste.
If you have a digital solution to make supply chains safer and more agile, apply for our Food Innovation Challenge. Applications are due July 7th.
AI, automation and robotics are already changing how food manufacturers and foodservice operators work. To see some of this technology in action, check out Burlington, ON-based Gastronomous Technologies Inc., a provider of automated solutions for foodservice. Gastronomous is one of five winners of CFIN’s recent Food Innovation Challenge for the development, in partnership with Recipe Unlimited and Sodexco Canada Ltd., of smart/connected kitchen equipment for food ingredient preparation, cold storage, and accurate automated portioning/dispensing of ingredients.