British Bakers Turn to AI Robot to Create the Perfect Loaf
Researchers in York have been awarded £77,000 in government funding to develop a robot baker to help reduce dough wastage.
Each year wastage costs large scale bakeries £205 million a year. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) food scientists at RedBlack Software and research association Campden BRI hope to help reduce this figure by more than half by taking the guesswork out of baking.
At present, 80% of the UK’s bread is made by automated machinery, however, a number of variables such as weather can affect the end result. Powered by AI, the machine will help bakers refine their recipes and make adjustments accordingly, and thus reduce the unpredictability of the outcome.
Jane Tyler, managing director of RedBlack Software, said: “Every load is different…Even slightly differing flour qualities have a big effect on the end product quality. Because of this, bakers throw away considerable amounts of dough before it is ever baked.”
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Using data gathered from sensors in the bakery, the AI can reveal everything from the air humidity to the speed settings on the mixer. This data is then processed by the robot to predict what is required to consistently produce the perfect dough.
Tyler, who insists humans will still play a role in the process, said: “Technology can take over monotonous tasks or iron out the guesswork with superior data analysis, but I think baking will always be very hands-on and people-based.
“It’s an ancient, creative craft that mixes art with science and while technology can help with many aspects of the science, production and business, the art and creativity is definitely best left to humans.”
The ‘Intelligent Dough Maker Project‘, is expected to run until early October, after which it will be piloted in-stores by a number of unnamed major British retailers.
Already AI is being deployed in stores like M&S to help staff forecast what they should be baking and when to meet customer demand. Similarly, smaller artisan bakeries have adopted AI to improve the consistency and quality of their output.
Dublin-based Bretzel Bakery, which is 150-years old, has also started using AI to control the quality of its dough and manage its kitchen by adjusting room temperature and humidity.