Last week, we convened some of the leading voices in AI and food at the inaugural Food AI Summit in Alameda, California, to discuss how this technology is transforming the food industry.
The conversation spanned the entire food system, examining the impact of AI on farming, food development, restaurants, personal nutrition, and household use.
It’s All About The Data
Throughout the day, it became clear that one of the most significant drivers for achieving highly functional and powerful AI systems is building them around the right data. Once you’ve trained the AI on good data, the insights derived from these platforms will far surpass what was previously possible.
Erica Bliss, the Chief Operating Officer of Mineral, believes where AI will really excel is in aggregating ‘multimodal’ data into a unified, synthesized analysis.
“It’s about integrating satellite imagery, soil data, weather data, historical yield data, camera data, and scouting notes from someone walking the field. The real power is in aggregating diverse and complex data types,” she said.
The Biggest Advances Will Come From a Combination of Human Knowledge with AI
The question of whether AI can replace human knowledge and innovation was a recurrent theme throughout the day. Oliver Zahn, the CEO of Climax Foods, believes that AI will not replace human knowledge. Instead, he sees the combination of technology and humans as a game-changer.
“People have this romantic notion that we have an algorithm, and you just tell it to make whatever cheddar, egg scramble, and then it will just tell you exactly how to make it,” said Zahn. “It’s vastly more complicated than that. In many cases, the humans are actually much better than the algorithms. And in real life, I don’t think anybody will ever write an algorithm and create a data set that is rich enough to do that. The algorithms give us a little bit of an edge over traditional food science companies, and in some cases, they give us a bigger edge.”
Erica Bliss believes that while AI will increasingly help farmers at both a systemic and individual farm level, it will be the combination of AI and human knowledge that will form the “Iron Man suit” amalgamation of capabilities that will lead to transformational outcomes.
“There are things that humans are incredibly good at that AI is not good at,” said Bliss. “And so if you’re aiming to get the best yield forecast, it is really the human plus machine that’s driving a far better outcome.”
AI Will Power Much More Personalized and Accessible Health and Nutrition Advice
Noosheen Hashemi, CEO of January, which offers a personalized nutrition and glucose tracking platform, believes AI will empower individuals with chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes to better monitor and anticipate the effects of their diet.
“There are things we have done you simply cannot do without AI,” said Hashemi. “We can build a digital twin of a person using wearable data and user-reported data. We’re then able to predict their glycemic response to any of the foods in the 32 million food database. With AI, we can also give counterfactuals like ‘you ate this, but if you had eaten this, this would have been your response.'”
Looking forward, Ari Tulla of Elo Health thinks AI-powered coaches could make healthcare much more personalized and accessible.
“Today, we live in a world where a doctor has 10 minutes to half an hour a year for you,” said Tulla. “What if you could have a bot or somebody that can talk to you like your personal trainer at the tune of 30 to 50 hours a year? That could have a very big impact.”
AI Will Have An Impact at the Macro and Hyperlocal Levels
David Lee, the CEO of Inevitable Tech, believes that AI will not only address the challenges of increased production due to a rising global population and climate change but also aid in making individual farms more financially sustainable.
“Around forty percent of farms break even or do any kind of variable profit, which means most farms operate at a constant loss,” said Lee. “AI isn’t just about serving these big global problems like food security. I can also address the very individualistic, local problem, which is to create financial sustainability, local and specific, to the unit of a farm anywhere in the world.”
The First-Ever Food AI Summit Could Be The Start of Something Big
During his comments, Ari Tulla commented on the event itself, believing it could be the beginning of something big.
“I’ve been at those events where there are a hundred people in the room, and you know this is the beginning of something,” said Tulla. “Ten years from now, some of us will look back and say, ‘I was at the first Food AI Summit.'”
We sure hope so! Thanks again to our speakers, sponsors, and attendees for making the first Food AI Summit a huge success!