How AI can help the food industry address two of its largest expenses

Food companies need to adopt sustainable practices and measures to reduce energy costs and their environmental footprint.
4 min
How AI can help the food industry address two of its largest expenses

The food and beverage industry is going through interesting times. While on the one end, there is an unprecedented increase in demand across the globe, and on the other end, food manufacturers struggle to increase profits in an increasingly hypercompetitive environment. 


As the world's population continues to grow, the food industry needs to continuously evolve to meet the growing demand. They are constantly under pressure to bringdown the cost of production to increase profit margin. The ever-increasing energy expense and wastage of raw materials are two expense guzzlers that continues to challenge the industry.


Energy consumption for the food industry is going to increase from 11% now to 16-17%.On the other hand, it is estimated that food manufacturers lose between 16-36%of their raw materials during manufacturing, leading to increased overall production costs. One-third of the food that we produce is wasted, according to a recent study by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Significantly, if food wastage were a country, it would be the third largest emitting country in the world.


Controlling these two costs is essential not just to bring down the operating expense but also to meet sustainability targets. The food sector currently accounts for around 30% of the world's total energy consumption and contributes over 20% of the total GHG emission. Further, it is expected that the energy consumption will increase by 5% in the next five years in the food processing sector, adding to manufacturers' annual operating costs. All this means there is a strong need for food companies to adopt sustainable practices and measures. 


Leveraging AI to Bring Down Energy Consumption and Wastage 

Over the last few years, Artificial intelligence (AI) is emerging as a technology of choice to help food manufacturers proactively address these issues. With AI, firms now have the data processing power and speed to predict costly errors across highly complex production processes. 


AI is helping the industry in ensuring that the processes are more streamlined and attuned at identifying irregularities. It is creating new opportunities and freeing people from routine tasks so they can move on to more strategic assignments. 


These two areas of energy consumption and wastage are also data-rich, making it easier to use AI to bring down the expense. AI tools allow food manufacturers to control asset utilization by keeping it at an optimal level to ensure that it is being consumed on-demand basis. For instance, a North American food ingredient giant used AI to optimize its energy production to forecast the optimal power and steam generation required to bring down gas usage. The company was able to bring down fuel costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by optimizing the gas consumption of its boilers. 


AI is also helping manufacturers unlock additional benefits in their processes that have been traditionally manually driven by human beings. A case in point is the food plant, which had to manually check on the moisture level every two hours to ensure consistent drying. With Canvass AI, the operations team is now able to predict the moisture content across different time intervals and accordingly adjust various temperature and pressure setpoints required to accomplish the desired moisture content. This way, the plant has reduced the moisture level discrepancies, thereby decreasing waste and improving overall quality while eliminating the need to manually check the moisture content.


There are several such use cases in the food value chain that can be optimized for greater efficiencies. Automating the tasks also means that the companies are able to bring down their labor expense, another crippling cost for food companies. 


Even as compelling use cases highlight the vast potential of AI to bring down energy consumption and wastage, the companies must select the right technology partner to maximize the benefits from this technology. AI allows the food industry to institutionalize the knowledge and use digital tools to perform tasks that are being done manually for several decades.  


AI is reshaping the food processing business and promises to revolutionize this sector in the times to come. The technology will help the industry not just to bring down energy cost and wastage but also enhance its revenue by speeding up the production process, reducing downtime, enabling automation, and eventually helping us build a sustainable future.

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