AI for food safety: Innovators urged to find solutions via Alibaba’s Tianchi platform

By Pearly Neo contact

- Last updated on GMT

Artificial intelligence (AI) experts from around the globe are being invited to compete in search of food safety solutions, such as foodborne disease outbreaks, food fraud or product recalls. ©Getty Images
Artificial intelligence (AI) experts from around the globe are being invited to compete in search of food safety solutions, such as foodborne disease outbreaks, food fraud or product recalls. ©Getty Images

Related tags: Artificial intelligence, Food safety, Alibaba

Artificial intelligence (AI) experts from around the globe are being invited to compete in search of food safety solutions, such as foodborne disease outbreaks, food fraud or product recalls.

Co-organised by Buhler, ID Capital and Alibaba’s cloud computing arm Alibaba Cloud as part of this year’s Future Food Asia contest, the participants will be competing via Tianchi, which is Alibaba Cloud’s global big data crowd intelligence platform.

This is the first time a Tianchi challenge has been hosted in Asia outside of China.

“This contest [is also] the first Alibaba Cloud’s Tianchi competition worldwide catering to the agrifood sector,”​ said Leon Chen, Country Manager Singapore, Alibaba Cloud during the event launch.

“Within the current Tianchi community, there are more than 270,000 developers and scientists from 93 countries and regions.

“Through competitions, Tianchi pools the wisdom of experts from around the world and leverages the expertise of the Alibaba Cloud Intelligence solutions to help entities in different sectors address real-world challenges.”

Also present at the event launch was major strategic partner Buhler. Dominique Kull, the company’s Head of Technology, SEA and Pacific said: “Out of Buhler’s three main areas of focus, two are actually food-related: Grains and Food, and Consumer Food. […] 65% of grains and 70% of chocolate worldwide is processed through a Buhler machine.”

“[As such], we see ourselves as holding a large responsibility, and [continuously look at solutions to address] challenges such as sustainability and food safety, [but] also know that we cannot do it just by ourselves [hence this co-organisation].”

Buhler Digital Officer Stuart Bashford added that: “Food safety is one of the major challenges faced by our industry today, [and we want] to gather the best talents and leverage the most advanced technologies to detect, understand and act on all possible threats along the value chain.

“Data is the central piece of this strategy. With this collaborative A.I challenge, we want to draw new data specialists to think about food industry challenges and ultimately join forces to create practical tools to improve human lives."

“Future Food Asia aims at encouraging a wider pool of talents to apply their capabilities to one of the most meaningful challenges of our times, the Future of Food,”​ said Isabelle Decitre, Founder & CEO of Future Food Asia 2019’s main organizer, ID Capital.

The challenge proper

Apart from the Tianchi platform, the competition will also be utilising Buhler’s food safety service provider safefood.ai, which monitors many thousands of sources and databases worldwide to alert users about food safety incidents.

The contestants will need to create algorithms and models that can generate ‘automated summaries’ of known food safety incidents that score highly in both relevancy and precision. Their models will be put to the test using large data sets from Buhler.

There are four prizes up for grabs in total, sponsored by Buhler: A US$10,000 first prize, two US$2,500 second prizes and an internship opportunity with Buhler Switzerland as a third prize.

Registration for the competition is open until April 10 2019 on the Tianchi website.

Future Food Asia 2019

Award organizer Isabelle Decitre added that this year’s Future Food Asia challenge would centre around three themes: Smallholder solutions, feeding a rising middle class and Food 4.0.

“[These three areas are important in Asia because] Asia is home to over 85% of the world’s smallholder farmers, the region needs to [rapidly] increase food production by 70% in order to cater to its middle class demands, and many Asian companies are an integral part of new tech such as AI and Blockchain,” ​she said.

Apart from the food safety challenge above, Food Future Asia 2019 has also opened applications to agritech and foodtech start-ups in the APAC region looking to compete for a US$100,000 grand prize.

Ten finalists will be selected by a four-member jury panel comprising Gerard Jacquin (former Director of Partnerships, Transfer and Innovation at Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique), Dr. Ralph Graichen (Director of Food and Nutrition at A*STAR’s Biomedical Research Council), (Victoria de la Huerga, Vice President of ADM Ventures, Archer Daniels Midland Company) and Decitre.

Two additional innovation solutions to improve agricultural impact on climate will also be rewarded by ADB Ventures, part of the Asian Development Bank. ADB Ventures will support the winning solutions with up to US$250,000 in pilot investments.

The Future Food Asia 2019 awards will take place in Singapore from June 3 to June 4 this year.

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