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19 September 2018 by Patrick Davis

Would you like a side of AI with that?

Would you like a side of AI with that?

The food industry - it's massive. And the adoption of self-improving AI is completely redeveloping the conventional services within it. Specifically, there are 3 sectors that are set to be disrupted in a significant way in the immediate future... 

Let's look at McDonald's. Unions have stated that workers are requesting higher wages due to global rises in living costs. Last year McDonald's began a response strategy against protests for wages exceeding £11.50/$15 hourly. In some restaurants you will notice new “self-serve” machines that gather customer orders efficiently, error-free and rapidly, handling any kind of customisation you can think of. This removes the need for manual labor other than the food prep/serving itself (for now…)

The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that by 2024, an estimated 80,000 fast food jobs will disappear in the US (predominantly due to AI) saving McDonalds around $48 Million dollars weekly. In time, after initial costs are paid off by these savings, it’ll be hard for other brands to compete unless they adapt. But it doesn’t stop there. Chatbots are set to further streamline the workforce by allowing customers to make orders in a conversational style. You could be driving with a friend to your nearest McDonald's, whilst the passenger is on Facebook Messenger placing 2 orders and paying online instantaneously, with it ready to collect as soon as they arrive. Much faster and much less prone to error, don’t you think?

Then there’s distribution. Ordered from Ocado recently? Well there’s a good chance it wasn’t a person that prepared your order. Who knows, maybe one day it won’t even be a human delivering it? Ocado adopted an incredible new warehouse strategy last year, and it’s still just as impressive. The “grid” system uses robots to undertake the most basic (but strenuous and costly) of tasks. It is easily expandable, processes a staggering 65,000 grocery orders weekly and brags AI and air traffic control tech to keep the system running smoothly with no collisions or accidents. They are completely replaceable/interchangeable, so mechanical faults don’t really matter either. I believe this is just the beginning, it’s almost impossible to fathom the potential improvements AI will bring to any industry let alone our precious food companies!

Lastly (and probably not what you expected) is the actual growing of food! I know right, AI and farmers? Well, it could work really well. Over at Sentient.AI, they demonstrate just this. Firstly “food computers” are used to analyse, in real time, the elements involved in plant growth (UV, salinity, heat etc…). Then, AI offers highly accurate feedback about what conditional changes could improve growth and/or yield. With more mouths to feed than ever across our populous planet, could this be part of the answer to further increase yields?

So, there’s some ‘food’ for thought. Would you order a burger from a chatbot? Would you be comfortable having no humans to deal with? Would you be OK with your food being prepared and delivered by robots? We're interested, let us know!