Ever since the First Agricultural Revolution, farmers have been using technology to advance their craft and improve their yields. Today, artificial intelligence is transforming the way we produce, distribute, and consume food.
In order to explore the role emerging technologies can play in fostering innovation and shaping the future of agriculture, food retail, nutrition, health, and sustainability, Google helped to bring together nearly 30 partners to produce Refresh: Food and Tech, from Soil to Supper, a qualitative report on the myriad ways that Artificial Intelligence is being adopted across the U.S. food supply chain. The report highlights how advanced technologies are helping to drive innovation in the nation’s food system—from production to distribution to consumption.
Emerging technologies are transforming every part of the complex food system. From precision agriculture to predictive ordering and tracking the safety of our food supply to managing industrial food waste, these advances are already changing the ways we respond to soil erosion, food insecurity, pollution, and over-development.
The publication of the report officially launches the Refresh Working Group, a growing and evolving team of farmers, small business owners, researchers, corporate partners, nonprofit leaders, educators, community organizers, and innovators working across the food system dedicated to working through major questions at the intersection of food and technology.
Highlights of Refresh: Food and Tech, from Soil to Supper:
Food Production: Autonomous tractors, drones, and remote sensors collect and analyze data in order to help farmers increase crop yields. Apps like FARMWAVE, PlantVillage, and Plantix, use deep learning algorithms to diagnose plant diseases and pests. Cameras attached to drones can detect weeds and monitor crop health from hundreds of feet above. Predictive technologies promise to support farmers by aggregating an otherwise overwhelming amount of data and providing actionable insights to help them make the best possible decisions.
Food Distribution: Grocers can now use “predictive ordering” platforms to accurately estimate how much of their food will be sold each day, thereby reducing costs and food waste. Virtual stores with direct-to-consumer delivery may help to deliver fresh produce and healthful foods to food insecure communities. New innovations in the sector are built with machine learning tools to rescue a chunk of the staggering 30-40% of the nation’s food supply that goes to waste.
Food Consumption: Food delivery apps, diet tracking platforms, and health databases are making it easier than ever for Americans to improve their eating habits and overall health. Researchers are also devising AI-powered tools to track and contain food poisoning outbreaks and identify sources of contamination. Agrisource Data’s AI-powered AgClarity Analytics platform and other new tools to track food quality, safety, and freshness throughout the complex food supply chain. The Fed40 app uses AI technology to create the food bank of the future. New tech tools will undoubtedly benefit the greater public good if they can make the complex food supply chain more efficient and transparent.