Artificial Intelligence in Food Processing, Asia-Pacific, 2019
The global food and beverages (F&B) industry continues to grow at a steady rate, driven largely by population growth, rising income levels, and changing lifestyles. Along with a shift in population demographics, consumers are becoming increasingly health-conscious and looking for premium, organic ingredients as well as the ability to customize their food products. In the emerging economies of the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, convenience is a top priority for consumers owing to their busy lifestyles, increased participation of women in the workforce, and population aging. These major trends are expected to boost the growth of the F&B industry as a whole, and the F&B processing equipment sector in particular.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is poised to revolutionize the F&B industry, as AI-equipped machines can significantly increase efficiency without compromising on quality. AI technology can be implemented in all stages of the F&B supply chain, resulting in an overall improvement in the ability of suppliers and manufacturers to sense and rapidly respond to the dynamic demands of the end users. Key application areas include food sorting, production line monitoring and process optimization, equipment cleaning, new product development, and product customization.
Compared to North America and Europe, adoption of AI in the APAC region is still in early stages, and the numbers are still limited. China and Japan lead the region in adoption rates, with the AI ecosystem in these countries being substantially more established. China attracts the major share of global investments in AI and boasts of a booming food delivery market that is 10 times the volume of its US counterpart. Japan has prioritized AI technology in its R&D expenditure to ensure that productivity is not negatively affected by its declining labor force. Meanwhile, Singapore shows great potential to be the region’s center of AI revolution, supported by significant government investment to build a digitally-enabled workforce. On the whole, AI adoption rate is recording an upward trend driven by a growing number of start-ups in the region, supportive policies and funding initiatives by governments, and a sizable millennial population.
Major industry participants are already utilizing AI in various applications, most notably for ensuring food safety in the wake of the recent scandals. Other applications include facilitating automation in the kitchen and in processing facilities, enhancing services by providing options for personalization, predicting upcoming food trends for new product developments, and providing a human element to robot waiters and vending machines. Although no longer considered a novelty, AI is yet to be ubiquitous due to cost constraints and the lack of skilled experts. However, with a growing number of innovative start-ups looking to increase their market share, AI technology can provide the much needed edge in this highly competitive space.
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