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Artificial Intelligence is the Latest Tool in the Fight Against Food Supply Chain Waste

As much as a third of the world’s produce is wasted, costing the global economy a staggering trillion dollars a year. But innovators are using artificial intelligence (AI) to fight back.

How AI can be deployed to combat excess and maintain freshness in the supply chain, is the focus of a major agrifood conference in Perth this week.

American food systems entrepreneur Abi Ramanan is one of the keynote speakers and will discuss how she’s used technology to tackle waste by helping digitise food supply chains.

“Applying it allows us to see more of the information and allows food companies to access information on freshness or ripeness or tenderness,” Ms. Ramanan told AAP from her San Francisco offices.

On Feb. 20, the evokeAG audience will hear how she and her team used hyperspectral imaging, similar to fingerprint technology, to hone in on everything from avocados to seafood to stop waste and food fraud.

Using AI they installed cameras on a conveyor belt on an avocado production line where they scanned the fruit for freshness and ripeness.

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This allowed them to work out how much dry matter was in the fruit to determine when it would ripen and which ones would be best suited for longer trips like export.

“You can understand information about 100 percent of the food products being processed on a conveyor belt, rather than relying on sample based testing,” Ms. Ramanan said.

She used the same technology while embedded in a commercial fish market in Spain to identify when red snapper was being substituted for tilapia, a much lower quality fish.

The food systems entrepreneur said agriculture is yet to fully benefit from ‘the explosion of digital technologies’ that have helped other sectors.

“I think there’s a number of different ways AI can shape the food systems landscape in general, starting at the very beginning of the supply chain,” Ms. Ramanan said.

Harriet Mellish from Agrifutures who helped pull together the evokeAG event said it was important to get AI driven innovation on the agenda, with a particular emphasis on what’s happening elsewhere in the world.

“To bring thought leaders and experience in this space to Australia is to ensure we are hearing from a global view,” she said.

But for Ms. Ramanan, AI also has plenty of challenges, like finding the right place in the supply chain to integrate the technology and working out who will pay for it.

“The big challenge with the food industry is that it’s a low margin, high volume industry that’s quite traditional; it doesn’t have the budgets of the pharmaceutical industry,” she said.

evokeAG kicks off on Feb. 20 and runs for two days, bringing together innovators, producers and investors from the agri food space.

Also on the program is food security and the challenges posed by mining and agriculture, as well as how producers can quantify their greenhouse gas emissions.

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