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Integrating AI into the produce industry

artificial intelligence grocery

ANAHEIM, CA – Your produce company isn’t left behind if it isn’t using artificial intelligence now.

But that time may be coming, quickly.

At the annual IFPA BB #:378962 Global Produce and Floral Expo, several speakers addressed AI and its use in the produce industry.

Headshot of Greg Johnson, Produce Blue Book's Director of media development.
Greg Johnson, Vice President of Media

To sum it up, they say you have nothing to fear from AI except maybe from not using it.

“AI has gone from nowhere to now here,” said IFPA CEO Cathy Burns in her state of the industry address.

She said it has the potential to improve many functions in the industry, such as improving customer experiences in foodservice and retail; reducing food waste; dynamic retail pricing; and helping consumers better meal plan and tracking nutrition and calories.

It has the ability to automate many job functions, which will mean workers will have to adapt their skills.

“With AI, can it reduce employee burnout?” she asked. “We have to work with this technology, not fight it. It’s no replacement for institutional knowledge and relationships.”

Elliott Grant, CEO of Mineral, an Alphabet company, liked AI to an Ironman suit rather than the Terminator, meaning, it’s a tool to help humans work better not a replacement for humans.

Humans plus AI are better than either are separately, he said.

Grant said AI can run experiments much faster than we can now or have ever been able to do, and there’s power in being able to know things that were previously unknowable.

One example he gave was produce inspections. Human inspectors tend to work on go or no-go, while AI can give details to a product’s quality, which can enable a company to make better decisions about the product.

A company doesn’t have to start using AI right now, but it should collect as much data as possible now for when it does start using AI, Grant said.

Johnny Taylor Jr., CEO of SHRM, said many workers fear AI will take away their jobs. He believes it will create more jobs than it eliminates, but it will force workers to update their skills.

Grant says AI has the potential to shake up the business world.

“AI won’t replace companies,” he said. “Companies that use AI will replace companies that don’t use AI.”


Greg Johnson is Vice President of Media for Blue Book Services