IBM Working to Increase Food Supply to Feed Growing World Population

IBM researchers around the world are already working on solutions at every stage of the food chain. They are helping farmers maximize crop yields and developing ways to curb the epidemic of waste that destroys 45 percent of our food supply.

Later this week, IBM scientists behind this year’s 5 in 5 will present at Science Slam at Think 2019 in San Francisco. The event will be on Wednesday, February 13 from 10 – 11 am Pacific time.

IBM has digitized and captured all aspects of agriculture, from the quality of the soil to the skills of the tractor driver to the price of melon sold at the market. Accurate simulations and AI will be used to accurately forecast crop yields and enable credit to be provided to farmers.

* Blockchain will be used to reduce food wastage. Blockchain in the supply chain will let everyone know exactly how much to plant, order, and ship.

* IBM is mapping the microbiome in order to protect us from bad bacteria.

* IBM researchers are creating powerful, portable AI sensors that can detect foodborne pathogens anywhere and everywhere they might turn up. These mobile bacteria sensors could dramatically increase the speed of a pathogen test from days to seconds, allowing individuals up and down the food chain to detect the existence of harmful E. coli or Salmonella before it becomes an outbreak.

In an email interview with Nextbigfuture IBM Fellow, Donna Dillenberger said: “The smartphone sensor that detects food pathogens is one form factor. We could embed sensors and AI into shipping containers carrying food.”

* IBM is developing innovations like VolCat. VolCat is a catalytic chemical process that digests certain plastics (called polyesters) into a substance that can be fed directly back into plastic manufacturing machines in order to make new products.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN Report on Food Wastage

The level of losses differ from one stage of the food supply chain to another, depending on crop type, level of economic development, as well as social and cultural practices in a region. In the case of fruits and vegetables, according to an FAO study loss at harvest and during sorting and grading dominate in industrialized regions, probably mostly due to discarding during grading to meet quality standards set by retailers. In developing regions, while losses at harvest and during sorting and grading are also high, losses during processing (14% – 21%) are much higher than those in developed regions (less than 2%). The distinct difference highlights the need to improve processing technologies for perishable products like fruits and vegetables in developing regions. The food industry can make a substantial contribution in this area by developing and disseminating low-cost and effective techniques such as drying.

SOURCES- IBM, Interview, Food and Agriculture Organization

Written By: Brian Wang.