The use of robotics is affecting every area of the food supply chain. As the global population continues to grow, the demand for food continues to rise. Food suppliers are constantly under pressure to be more efficient in providing food in the market. Also, consumers demand good quality food at their convenience.
One way the food industry had ensured it meets its market demands is by incorporating the use of robots. Compared to other manufacturers, the food industries have been the slowest when it comes to adopting the use of robotics. However, over the last few years, robots have started to make their way to the food industry. They are used in different stages of the food supply chain, including packaging where packaging robots are used.
Robotics and agriculture
The food journey begins with crop-based agriculture. By 2022, the agriculture industry is estimated to be worth at least 7.87 billion dollars. This is because of the adoption of robots in the agricultural industry. For instance, drones used in agriculture are estimated to be worth 3.9 billion by 2022.
Robots are applied in different stages of agriculture including seed planting, sorting and identifying. Also, the robotics industry has motivated the creation of autonomous tractors, harvesting and weeding robots too. Today, autonomous ground vehicles and drones can be used by farmers to monitor their vast fields of land from the comfort of their homes.
In non-planting agriculture, robots are not being used in the dairy industry for milking cows. They are also used in beef and poultry farming. Robot applications include feeding animals, egg collections as well as autonomous cleaning. There are over 160 agencies and businesses making use of robots to develop agricultural applications.
Robotics and food manufacturing
Autonomous manufacture of food is believed to be the key to meeting the growing food demand. In the next 5 years, the food automation industry is expected to double in value globally and to reach 2.5 billion by the year 2022. The largest drive is the Asia-pacific region because of the demand for ready to eat foods.
Robotics in food manufacture is mostly used in the secondary processing phase where food is sort and combined by baking, chilling or cooking. The robotic processes in this phase include product sorting, removal of defects and mixing.
Robots and food packaging
Packaging robots have been in use in the food packaging processes for a long time. However, the latest development in robotics has seen to it that robots can be entrusted to the whole process of packaging where in the past, human collaboration was required.
Food packaging is split into 3 phases:
- Primary packaging – this is the stage where individual food products are packed. Here a robot can pick the food from one lace and pack in plastic tubs.
- Secondary packaging – this is where individual packs are grouped together. Here, another robot can pick and place the tubs into one large box.
- Tertiary packaging – this is where the secondary packages are packed for shipping. A palletizing robot can be used to pack numerous robots onto a pallet.
Packaging robots will continue to play an integral role in the foods industry.
Robots and food delivery
Delivery robots are slowly becoming popular in the food industry. Different food chains are considering the use of autonomous vehicles to deliver food. While this may seem like a fad that will eventually fade, autonomous food delivering systems is addressing a rising market trend. Over the last few years, there has been a rising demand for hotel quality ready to eat food for home deliveries. This creates a place for automated food delivery systems which include the use of robots.
Robots and cooking
This is the final stage of the food supply chain. Cooking robots have been a topic of discussion in the robotics market for years. Robotic kitchens have also been developed. They have the ability to mix ingredients and cook them. Also, using robotics in mass cooking and delivery of demand foods has been said to ensure the quality of the food is maintained.