On November 15th, the Refresh Working Group featuring Food Tank, Google, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and more than twenty other partners released 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 precision agriculture to 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. “This report initiates a much-needed conversation about the benefits technology can bring to food production, distribution, and consumption,” says Ali Lange of Google. “It is exciting to see so many everyday, real-world applications of AI and to work together with people from across so many different sectors.”
The publication of the report officially launches the Refresh Working Group, a growing and evolving team of nearly 30 farmers, small business owners, researchers, corporate partners, nonprofit leaders, educators, community organizers, and innovators working across the food system dedicated to working through major issues at the intersection of food and technology. “It is great to see a large technology company working at the grassroots level to help enrich dialogue about the role technology can play-—both good and bad—in the food system,” says Danielle Nierenberg, President and Co-Founder of Food Tank. The report includes a wide range of nuanced perspectives on the role and responsibility of technology in the food system.
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 can support farmers by aggregating an otherwise overwhelming amount of data and providing actionable insights to help them make decisions.
Food Distribution: Grocers can now use “predictive ordering” platforms to 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 percent 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 promise to benefit the greater public good if they can make the complex food supply chain more efficient and transparent.
“This bipartisan report and efforts by the working group represent a strong commitment to supporting our nation’s food system by utilizing advances in technology,” says Julie Stitzel from the U.S. Chamber Technology Engagement Center. “We’re focused on leveraging innovation to support American agriculture while enhancing efficiencies in our food supply chain in a way that benefits both consumers and businesses.”
Members of the Refresh Working Group include: Agrisource Data, C_TEC (U.S. Chamber Technology Engagement Center), Center for Environmental Farming Systems at North Carolina State University, Fair Food Network, FARMWAVE, Food Tank, School of Computer Science at Georgia Institute of Technology, HerdDogg, Inc., Hunger Solutions Institute at Auburn University, Farm Generations Cooperative, MyAgData, New Barn, New Hope Network, Penn State University, Rise & Root Farm, Santa Cruz Farm, Sustainable Food Lab, The Xerces Society, University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, Wholesome Wave, Wholesome Wave Georgia, Wright’s Market, and X.
Learn more about the Refresh report and the Refresh Working Group at www.refreshfoodandtech.com.