The food business is undergoing a transformation thanks to robotics. Food demand continues to climb as the world’s population exceeds 7.9 billion people. Food suppliers are working more efficiently and consumers are demanding higher-quality, sustainable food available at their convenience.
The use of robotics and automation is a critical component in the solution to these demands. The food production industry has been slow to incorporate robotics in comparison to other industries. However, robots have begun to infiltrate virtually every part of the food supply chain.
Robots are everywhere now, from the farm to the kitchen. Robotics is affecting every link in the food supply chain. Here are a few examples of how it’s affecting the industry.
1. Automated Agriculture
The beginning of the food journey is crop agriculture. The precision agriculture market is worth more than $ 7 billion and robotics plays a significant role in this. In addition, agricultural drones are worth more than $ 3 billion.
Planting, identifying, and sorting seedlings are examples of robotic applications. Autonomous tractors, harvesting robots, and weeding robots are also available. In addition, crops are being monitored and analyzed using drones and autonomous ground vehicles.
One recent Harvard research initiative tries to address a critical issue for world agriculture: the reduction of bee populations. The researchers propose pollinating crops with a swarm of tiny drones.
Robotics is also used in non-plant agriculture such as poultry, dairy, and beef production. Autonomous milking, feeding, egg gathering, and sorting, in addition to autonomous cleaning, are some of the applications.
2. Food Manufacturing Robotics
Autonomous food production could be the solution to addressing rising food demand. In the next few years, the worldwide food automation industry will expand even more. The Asia-Pacific market is a major driver due to the popularity of ready-to-eat foods in that region of the world.
The production of food happens in two stages:
- Primary processing – This entails cleaning, transporting, sorting, and blending raw food ingredients. Butchery and fruit and vegetable sorting are two robotic uses here.
- Secondary processing – Baking, cooking, chilling, and other techniques combine ingredients to create new food products. Product sorting, mixing, and defect removal are examples of robotic applications here.
Secondary processing is better suited for robotics applications because the food is more uniform by then. However, we are seeing an increase in the number of primary processing robots.
3. Food Packaging Robotics
For a long time, food packaging robots have been working in various sectors of the food supply chain. However, the most recent advancement is the ability to automate the entire packing process.
There are three steps to food packaging:
- Primary packaging – Packaging individual foods. A pick-and-place robot, for example, places candy into plastic containers.
- Secondary packaging – Individual packages are packed together. Another pick-and-place robot, for example, piles the plastic tubs into a larger package.
- Tertiary packaging – Secondary packages are put together for delivery. A palletizing robot, for example, stacks several boxes onto a pallet.
Robotic packaging is anticipated to remain one of the most popular applications in the food business.
4. Food Delivery
Robotic meal delivery has recently received a lot of attention. While self-driving food delivery may appear to be just a novelty, it addresses a growing industry trend. There has been a significant increase in demand for restaurant-quality, home-delivered, ready-to-eat cuisine in recent years.
It’s uncertain if autonomous delivery will become popular, however, our appetite for takeout is already transforming the food industry.
5. Robotics in the Kitchen
Cooking is the last step in the food supply chain. The MIT robotic kitchen combines pre-cut components and cooks them in heated drums that rotate like a cement mixer. Cooking automation, on the other hand, does not always imply cooking meals on-demand.
For example, the APRIL robot aims to bring restaurant-quality meals to mass production. Because of the enormous batch sizes, traditional mass-production methods impair food quality. The designers believe the food quality is better when employing a KUKA robot to cook in smaller amounts.
Cooking and delivery robots are still in their infancy. Robotics, on the other hand, is undeniably transforming the food sector.
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