The food industry impacts everyone in the world to some degree or another. Everyone needs to eat, and many people are also employed in some portion of the food industry, whether at the farm, in a supermarket, or somewhere in between. In a market that affects so many people, any innovation or improvement in efficiency can have far-reaching effects. And with the growth of big data, companies and researchers in the food industry are beginning to create new ways of improving operations from end to end of the food supply chain.
Precision agriculture is a new farming approach that monitors crops in minute detail. It allows farmers to individually tailor their approach to each field and type of crop, ensuring that everything gets the best treatment for its needs. This process improves production volume and efficiency, and minimizes waste. It uses big data related to sensors and cameras that monitor the crops, as well as sophisticated weather prediction algorithms. Care of each crop can be adjusted individually as necessary based on observations and predictions gleaned from this data. In the food industry, analytics also allow farmers to detect problems early on and take action to prevent or minimize them.
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Processing and Transportation
This is another area where big data can fuel valuable analytics. It can be used to maximize efficiency in plants that process and package crop and livestock products, making the best use of space and available equipment. It can also determine the best transportation methods and routes. By analyzing transport methods and making them more efficient, spoilage and damage can be reduced, allowing a greater percentage of products to make it from the farm to the customer. According to McKinsey, hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of food is wasted globally every year and accounts for over 8% of greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing this waste will increase profits, as well as the amount of food produced, and will have a positive impact on the environment.
Big data is allowing restaurant chains to closely monitor every aspect of their business. By collecting information from every individual restaurant, it is possible for food analytics to detect patterns such as what menu items perform best in which regions, how much food needs to be stocked and prepared for a given week or even a particular time of day, and what building layout provides the best and most efficient experience.
Food Safety and Nutrition
Analyzing data about food quality can allow restaurants (or other organizations in the supply chain) to more easily detect spoiled food, preventing it from reaching the customer. This analysis can also help producers and distributers in the food industry identify contaminated food, and isolate its source and current location. Not only does this allow for faster recalls, minimizing the number of people exposed to the food, it also allows for targeted recalls rather than blanket ones. This saves the company significant amounts of money, as fewer items need to be removed from shelves and replaced.
Scientists are also developing scanners that can identify the nutritional content of food. While this can be useful to people looking to monitor caloric intake and the types of food they consume, it can also identify ingredients that the user is allergic to. This can help reduce food-related illnesses and allergic reactions.
These are just a few of the many ways that big data is improving the food industry. It is increasing efficiency, reducing environmental impact, and improving food safety. And with new developments being made all the time, this is sure to be only the beginning.