How well do you know the origins of the food you serve? Restaurants are able to collect a growing amount of information about the items they order – and that can enable much more powerful buying decisions and better management of food supply risks. Beyond fine-tuning inventory needs based on how your guests are ordering and helping you minimize waste, restaurant operators and other companies in the food supply chain are starting to use artificial intelligence to track and contain supply chain risks – say, tracking a recalled product and mining reams of data to identify trends from it or determine whether a specific supplier, distributor, or environmental problem is to blame. The company FourKites, which helps fine-tune shipment tracking for food suppliers ranging from US Foods to Tyson Foods, is one company bringing greater visibility to the supply chain.
COVID-19 has cast a bright spotlight on the building blocks of the food industry. It has made consumers and food businesses question where our food comes from, what foods should and shouldn’t be offered throughout the year, how our food is produced and by whom, and how many stops a food product makes along the food chain from start to finish. There is a growing ecosystem of tech-driven organizations looking to give food industry professionals more knowledge about the food they are managing, as well as more control in managing it. Better Food Ventures, a venture capital investment firm that focuses on technology’s applications in the food industry, recently assembled a chart of the 1,300 startups comprising the agtech ecosystem. These startups operate in such areas as crop monitoring, pest and disease monitoring, harvest robotics, automated crop care and sunless production systems – and provide an interesting glimpse into how the industry is adapting to the current environment. As we manage the possibility of future challenges ranging from severe weather to pandemics, technologies like these are likely to become more critical pillars of the food supply.