In this post, we’re going to look at robotics and automation in the food industry, the different applications robotics have, and what the future has in store for the industry.
First, though, we need to understand what is robotics and what is automation.
What is Robotics?
So, what are robotics? Merriam-Webster defines robotics as ‘technology dealing with the design, construction, and operation of robots in automation’. Robotics also includes the computer systems that are required for their control, sensory feedback, and information processing.
What is Automation?
Techopedia say that ‘automation is the creation of technology and its application in order to control and monitor the production and delivery of various goods and services. It performs tasks that were previously performed by humans.’
Robotics and automation in agriculture
An agricultural robot is a robot that is used for specific agricultural purposes. The main application with the agricultural industry would be regarded within the harvesting stage, monitoring the environment, and soil analysis.
Robotics business review explains that advanced robotic systems will take care of and harvest plants, as well as carry out on-farm data collection, increasing crop yields.
Agricultural robots, sometimes known as agribots, are seen as one of the key trends that will deeply influence agriculture.
Many companies are utilising robots to increase their overall crop yields. They can do this by automatically analysing the crops, using a detailed sensor to gather data on the status of the crop within the external conditions to evaluate the best type of conditions to cultivate for crops.
Imagine you’re a farmer and being able to know the ideal time to plant and harvest your crop, is it something you would want to invest in?
Well thanks to AI, this is now something that is becoming possible among other applications. This, of course, can save farmers time and costs while also improving their costs and efficiency.
It’s becoming so popular that Microsoft made a global tv commercial to advertise it’s an area they are specialising in.
As agricultural robots become a permanent fixture on many farms, the value of the market is expected to reach $20.6 billion by 2025, and with the rate of growth, it wouldn’t be surprising if it beat this valuation.
Robotics and automation in food manufacturing
Over the past couple of years, food manufacturing has become more difficult within the intricate processes needed to carry out specific tasks. These processes include; preparing ingredients, various cooking methods, picking and packing, as well as improving the overall safety of the food manufacturing environment.
As there is a high demand for lean manufacturing within the food industry, robots have been seamlessly integrated within the industry over the past couple of years for this reason. The autonomous solutions that robots bring means that they are able to make high precision movements within the workplace, with the regulated safety measured in place – mitigating workplace accident levels as much as possible.
Robotics.org reports that a major advancement in robotic technology within food processing has been the introduction of more advanced grippers. These grippers allow for quick but gentle handling of sensitive food products like fruit and vegetables.
Robotics and automation in food packaging
According to BCC Research, the food processing and packaging market will be valued around $31.5 billion by 2020, which shows the clear upward spiral the market is going. Furthermore, 94% of food packaging operators are using robotics already according to a survey by the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies.
In January 2018, a survey by the Association of Labour Providers found that 70% of food and beverage manufacturing companies were suffering from a shortage of low and unskilled labour.
So it’s no wonder that machines are being brought in to do monotonous jobs, with the added bonus there is minimal room for human error and no chance of fatigue from a robot.
Contemporary robotics allows for order picking and packaging to be much more efficient. For example, once an order has been placed online, the robot will be able to detect the location of the specific product, package aptly, and provide the customer with real-time information and status of the product being delivered.
Packaging robots are able, but not limited to, carry out the following tasks: open, fill, pack, seal, and correctly label the package to be sent to the end-user.
Food packaging robots provide the opportunity for workers to not carry out repetitive and tedious production line tasks and instead upskill them to more fulfilling roles that overlook the production line process.
Robotics and automation in cookery
Traditionally the intricate nature of cooking has required a human to carry out this task. However, automated robots have been designed and created to cook different types of food all by an application, which even cleans up afterwards.
Robotics and automation in the food industry are growing with more and more applications and robots being used than ever before.
The most recent robot application within the cookery space is the robot chef Flippy designed and developed by Miso Robotics and part-funded by the Cali Group. Flippy is a robotic arm that flips and cooks burgers with ease and fries up to 80 baskets of food per hour, monitor the food to ensure it’s cooked and can clean up after itself.
These robots have been designed to be used in restaurants, hotels with chef automation, and development has started for cooking robots in homes. For example, Moley has created a prototype that is designed for homes and cooks with the skills of a ‘master chef’.
What does the future hold?
It’s reported that the packaging industry is forecasted to utilise this big data, indeed, to heighten the use of real-time updates that customers now expect within the modern-day lifestyle.
Robotics and automation in the food industry is definitely an area to watch with the growth not looking to stop anytime soon. Robotics and automation are inevitably improving the efficiency of the manufacturing process as a whole. With the development of artificial intelligence and big data, this is likely to positively impact the interconnectedness of the food industry process.
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What we do: L.A.C. has a wealth of experience supplying conveyor systems and robotic solutions to a range of industries including automotive, aerospace, food and beverage, heavy engineering, and logistics. L.A.C. design, assemble, incorporate testing, and deliver with training and after-sales support for a smooth handover. With an in-house mechanical design team, project managers, and engineers, all the builds are undertaken on the five-unit 60,000 sq. ft premises.