Editor’s Note: Eva Everloo is senior investment analyst, and Dr. Orly Savion is CTO and principal at agri-food tech investor PeakBridge.
The views expressed in this guest commentary are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect those of AgFunderNews.
From accelerated drug discovery and turbo-charged R&D, to sparkling marketing copy and improved customer service, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are being deployed in every field. But what do they bring to the food industry?
In the first segment of a three-part deep dive into AI in food, Peakbridge explores how AI is digitizing consumption insights and new product development.
1. The synergy of AI and food: Revolutionizing an industry
The journey of artificial intelligence commenced with Alan Turing’s visionary ‘Intelligent Machinery‘ in 1948, setting the stage for a 21st century explosion of breakthroughs in machine learning and in neural networks and paving the way for the integration of AI models across industries. Simultaneously, global food production has evolved.
The green revolution of the 1970s introduced high-yield crops and improved irrigation techniques. Although it aimed for food security, the intensified fertilizer use raised concerns about environmental sustainability. With the planet projected to host nearly 10 billion inhabitants, the urgency is evident. The rate of global meat consumption is rapidly increasing, but agricultural yields are not keeping up with demand projections. Add to this the imperative to slash emissions and land use, and we’re in need of a food production tech re-evolution.
Explore the timeline at the bottom of this article for a summary of milestones in food production, AI, and their convergence from 1950 to today. Amidst these circumstances, venture capital investments in foodtech have surged, aiming to accelerate the development of alternative foods and food production methods.
While substantial advances have been made in cellular agriculture (among others), the real challenge lies in scaling these innovations within a reasonable timeframe and at an affordable cost. This is precisely where AI steps in, becoming a pivotal ally in food innovation that complements human intelligence. While still in its early stages of adoption in the food industry, AI is already optimizing supply chain operations, catalyzing product development, and creating nutritious, healthy, and sustainable food options tailored to consumer demand.
Drawing a parallel, just as the widespread adoption of electricity coincided with the industrial revolution in the late 18th century that enabled the development of electrical infrastructure and led to a global shift in productivity, AI is poised to spark its own revolution, fundamentally reshaping how we approach productivity in the food industry.
A closer examination of Pitchbook data from the 21st century shows that AI investments in the agrifood sector reached $11.5 billion. To put this into perspective, the global food industry generates about $9.4 trillion in annual revenue. In contrast, the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, with a yearly expenditure of around $8.3 trillion, received nearly nine times more investment capital for AI innovations during the same timeframe, totaling $94.4 billion: