Food Waste Management: AI Driven Food Waste Technologies

Simranjeet Singh 16 Jan, 2023 • 9 min read

This article was published as a part of the Data Science Blogathon.

Introduction

In today’s world, where the population is increasing at an alarming rate, food waste has become a major issue. According to recent statistics, one-third of all food produced globally is wasted. This results in a significant loss of resources and contributes to environmental problems such as greenhouse gas emissions. The food waste problem is not only limited to developed countries but is also prevalent in developing countries. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that food waste generates about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is equivalent to the emissions of the entire global transport sector.

Additionally, food waste also results in economic losses; it is estimated that globally, food losses and waste amounts to $940 billion per year. Moreover, food waste also has a societal impact as it results in hunger and malnourishment. The United Nations estimates that around 821 million people, or roughly one in nine, suffer from hunger and malnutrition worldwide.

Source: eletimes.com

Furthermore, food waste also impacts natural resources, as the water, land, and energy used to produce wasted food could have been used to feed people in need. Additionally, the decomposition of food in landfills releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, which contributes to climate change. The food industry, government, and research organizations are taking steps to reduce food waste, but more needs to be done. This blog aims to explore AI’s use in solving food waste and its potential impact. By using AI, it is possible to optimize supply chain management, predict demand, and reduce food spoilage. By doing so, AI can help reduce the amount of wasted food and contribute to addressing the global problem of food insecurity.

Current Strategies and Technologies

Traditionally, reducing food waste has mainly focused on reducing food losses during production and supply chain management. For example, many food companies have implemented “just in time” inventory systems to reduce food waste. This method is based on producing and delivering the goods only when needed, which helps minimize the amount of food that goes to waste. Additionally, many food companies have also implemented “first-in, first-out” (FIFO) systems to ensure that the oldest products are used first and are less likely to spoil.

Another common strategy is to donate surplus food to food banks and other organizations that provide food assistance to those in need. For instance, companies like Walmart and Target have implemented food recovery programs to donate surplus food to local food banks. This not only reduces food waste but also helps to address the problem of food insecurity.

Food Waste Management
Source: www.fox16.com

However, these methods have their limitations. For example, reducing food losses during production may not be possible in all cases, such as when dealing with perishable goods. Furthermore, these methods may not be enough to address the complex problem of food waste. Additionally, these methods may not be able to provide real-time solutions, such as predicting demand, identifying patterns, and taking action promptly.

Therefore, there is a growing interest in using AI-based solutions to tackle the food waste problem. AI-based solutions can help to optimize supply chain management, predict demand, and reduce food spoilage. AI can also be used to sort and grade food products, reducing the amount of food waste generated during production.

AI-based Approaches to Reduce Food Waste

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can play a significant role in reducing food waste. AI can be used to optimize supply chain management, predict demand, and reduce food spoilage.

  1. One way AI can be used is by using Machine Learning (ML) algorithms to predict demand for food products. This can help to reduce food waste by ensuring that the right amount of food is produced and delivered to the right place at the right time. For example, a retail company can use historical sales data and weather forecast data to train an ML model to predict the demand for specific products. This can help the company optimize its inventory management and reduce the amount of food waste.
  2. Another way AI can be used is through the use of computer vision techniques to sort and grade food products. For instance, computer vision techniques can be used to automatically sort and grade fruits and vegetables based on their size, shape, and color. This can help to reduce food waste by ensuring that only the highest quality products are sold to consumers.

Here is an example of python code that shows how to use a machine learning model to predict the demand for food products:

# Importing necessary libraries
import pandas as pd
from sklearn.ensemble import RandomForestRegressor
from sklearn.model_selection import train_test_split
# Reading the data
data = pd.read_csv('food_demand.csv')
# Splitting the data into training and test sets
X = data.drop(['Demand'], axis=1)
y = data['Demand']
X_train, X_test, y_train, y_test = train_test_split(X, y, test_size=0.2, random_state=42)
# Creating and training the model
model = RandomForestRegressor(n_estimators=100, random_state=42)
model.fit(X_train, y_train)
# Evaluating the model
score = model.score(X_test, y_test) print("Model accuracy:", score)

This code uses a random forest regressor model to predict the demand for food products using historical sales data and weather forecast data. The model is trained using the training data and then evaluated using the test data. The accuracy of the model is then printed out. Once the model is trained, it can be used to make predictions on new data and help the company optimize its inventory management and reduce food waste.

It is worth mentioning that while AI has the potential to play a significant role in reducing food waste, it is important to consider the ethical and societal implications of using AI in this context. And also, it is important to implement these solutions responsibly and sustainably, that guarantees that food is going to the right places, is safe and nutritious to eat, and is not being wasted in cases where it could have helped to feed people in need.

Food Waste Management Case Studies

One example of a company using AI to reduce food waste is Food Cowboy. This company uses an app that connects farmers, food banks, and grocery stores to redistribute surplus food that would otherwise be thrown away. The app uses machine learning algorithms to match surplus food with the nearest food bank or shelter in need. As a result, Food Cowboy has been able to redistribute over 10 million pounds of food that would otherwise have gone to waste.

Here is an example of python code that shows how to use a machine learning model to match surplus food with the nearest food bank or shelter in need:

# Importing necessary libraries
import pandas as pd
from sklearn.neighbors import KNeighborsClassifier
# Reading the data
data = pd.read_csv('surplus_food.csv')
food_banks = pd.read_csv('food_banks.csv')
# Splitting the data into training and test sets
X = data[['food_type', 'expiry_date', 'quantity']]
y = data['match']
X_train, X_test, y_train, y_test = train_test_split(X, y, test_size=0.2, random_state=42)
# Creating and training the model
model = KNeighborsClassifier(n_neighbors=5)
model.fit(X_train, y_train)
# Evaluating the model
score = model.score(X_test, y_test)
print("Model accuracy:", score)
# Using the trained model to make predictions
predictions = model.predict(X_test)
# Matching surplus food with nearest food bank or shelter
for i in range(len(predictions)):
    match = predictions[i]
    food_location = food_banks.iloc[match]['location']
    food_distance = food_banks.iloc[match]['distance']
    print("Surplus food at index", i, "matched with", food_location, "at distance", food_distance)

This code uses a K-neighbors classifier to match surplus food with the nearest food bank or shelter in need. The model is trained using the data of surplus food, which contains information about the food type, expiry date, and quantity. The model is then evaluated using the test data, and its accuracy is printed out. Once the model is trained, it can be used to make predictions on new data and help match surplus food with the nearest food bank or shelter in need.

Another example is Winnow. This company has developed a smart meter that can be installed in commercial kitchens to track food waste. The meter uses AI to analyze the data and provide insights on how to reduce waste, such as by adjusting portion sizes or changing menu items. This technology has been adopted by several large hotels and restaurants around the world, resulting in significant reductions in food waste. In one case study, The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in London reduced food waste by 66% and saved £10,000 per year by using Winnow’s technology.

Food Waste Management
Source: getlogo

Here is an example of python code that shows how to use a machine learning model to analyze kitchen data and provide insights on how to reduce food waste:

 y_test.iloc[i]:
        print("Menu item", X_test.iloc[i]['menu_items'], "is generating more waste than expected. Consider adjusting portion size or ingredients.")" data-snippet-id="ext.c7ba3d02d7c5191d1d7a71cea55925ec" data-snippet-saved="false" data-codota-status="done"># Importing necessary libraries
import pandas as pd
from sklearn.linear_model import LinearRegression
# Reading the data
data = pd.read_csv('kitchen_data.csv')
# Splitting the data into training and test sets
X = data[['menu_items', 'portion_size', 'ingredients']]
y = data['waste']
X_train, X_test, y_train, y_test = train_test_split(X, y, test_size=0.2, random_state=42)
# Creating and training the model
model = LinearRegression()
model.fit(X_train, y_train)
# Evaluating the model
score = model.score(X_test, y_test)
print("Model accuracy:", score)
# Using the trained model to make predictions
predictions = model.predict(X_test)
# Analyzing the data and providing insights on how to reduce waste
for i in range(len(predictions)):
    if predictions[i] > y_test.iloc[i]:
        print("Menu item", X_test.iloc[i]['menu_items'], "is generating more waste than expected. Consider adjusting portion size or ingredients.")

This code uses a linear regression model to analyze kitchen data and provide insights on how to reduce food waste. The model is trained using data that includes information about menu items, portion sizes, and ingredients. The model is then evaluated using the test data and its accuracy is printed out. Once the model is trained, it can be used to make predictions on new data and help identify which menu items are generating more waste than expected and suggest adjustments to reduce waste.

As can be seen from these examples, AI can play a significant role in reducing food waste by using machine learning models to predict demand, match surplus food, analyze kitchen data and provide insights on how to reduce waste. However, it’s important to consider the ethical and societal implications of using AI in this context and implement solutions responsibly and sustainably.

Ethical and Societal Implications of Food Waste Management

The use of AI to reduce food waste raises important ethical and societal implications that need to be considered. One of the main concerns is that AI-based solutions may exacerbate existing inequalities and further marginalize certain groups. For example, AI-based solutions that rely on historical data may perpetuate biases and lead to unfair distribution of resources.

Another concern is that AI-based solutions may lead to job losses, as automation and optimization may replace human workers. This is particularly relevant for the food industry, where jobs such as food sorting and grading may become automated. It is important to consider the impacts of job losses on individuals and communities and to ensure that displaced workers have access to retraining and other support to help them transition to new roles.

Food Waste Management
Source: iberdrola.com

Additionally, AI-based solutions may lead to privacy concerns, as they involve collecting and analyzing large amounts of data. It is important to ensure that data is collected and used ethically and that individuals’ privacy rights are protected.

One example of a potential ethical issue with AI-based solutions to reduce food waste is the fact that AI algorithms could prioritize the redistribution of surplus food to the most profitable or politically connected organizations rather than the ones that are the most in need. This could lead to an unequal distribution of resources and exacerbate existing inequalities.

Another example is that AI-based solutions to reduce food waste may lead to job losses in the food industry, as automation and optimization may replace human workers. For instance, AI-based systems that sort and grade food products could lead to job losses for workers who currently perform these tasks. It is important to consider the impacts of job losses on individuals and communities and to ensure that displaced workers have access to retraining and other support to help them transition to new roles.

Considering these ethical and societal implications is important when developing and implementing AI-based solutions to reduce food waste. It is also important to involve different stakeholders, including communities and workers, in the design and implementation process to ensure that the solutions are fair, ethical, and socially responsible.

Conclusion

In conclusion, AI-based solutions have the potential to make a significant impact on reducing food waste through optimization of supply chain management, demand prediction, and spoilage reduction. However, it’s essential to keep in mind the ethical and societal implications, such as the exacerbation of existing inequalities, job loss, and privacy concerns. To ensure that AI solutions are ethical, fair, and socially responsible, it’s vital to involve different stakeholders in the design and implementation process.

Key Takeaways:

  • AI can effectively reduce food waste through the optimization of supply chain management, demand prediction, and spoilage reduction
  • AI solutions’ ethical and societal implications must be considered to ensure fair and sustainable outcomes.
  • Involving different stakeholders in the design and implementation process is crucial for creating ethical and socially responsible AI solutions.
  • AI can positively impact reducing food waste, but it’s important to consider the potential negative consequences and take steps to mitigate them.

The media shown in this article is not owned by Analytics Vidhya and is used at the Author’s discretion.

 

Simranjeet Singh 16 Jan 2023

Data Science Enthusiast and Python Developer

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Prasad
Prasad 17 Jan, 2023

Where's the datasets download link????

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