Artificial intelligence may help reduce food waste

TORONTO — Artificial intelligence will allow food producers to process a host of data from fuel prices to weather patterns to make better decisions.

“It’s designing a model that allows us to learn from the past to predict the future,” said Sylvain Charlebois, dean of the faculty of management at Dalhousie University.

“Over time, you see patterns.”

At Dalhousie, this cognitive technology is currently being used to predict food prices for the next 12 months based on relevant variables.

“The industry is about to embark into a new era of high tech,” said Charlebois. “With cognitive technology, you can better predict what is likely to happen.”

Grocers could be guided on when to drop food prices or when to ramp up supplies, he added.

For farmers, it will guide planting times and input choices and amounts,” he said.

“Farmers will benefit from big data to predict the effect of climate change.”

For retailers, it means reducing food waste through price optimization and pricing strategies adapted with demand and supply.

“Less waste means more money for the entire food chain,” said Charlebois.

“Some machine will tell the grocer of a market for (cauliflower) in the morning. A machine will tell him to drop the price by noon.”

He said it can make sense of a dizzying array of information and help food networks with planning.

That includes the current strong growth in food service as compared to food retailing.

“Food service is winning the war because customers are looking for convenience,” he said. “People are longing for convenience and that affects food retailing.”

Charlebois cited confused consumers facing cases of food fraud and information through social media that’s not always valid.

“That affects the psyche of consumers,” he said.

Models could also predict the impact on future markets from generational, gender and income level differences and a strong ethnic mix in Canada.

“Our palates are changing. We are attracted to different food from all over the world,” he said.

“The best way to understand this is with artificial intelligence.”

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