Basil harvested at City Farm is packaged for delivery in Chicago, Illinois.
Looking for that perfect recipe, or a new flavor combination that delights the senses?
Increasingly, players in the food industry are embracing artificial intelligence to better understand the dynamics of flavor, aroma and other factors that go into making a food product a success.
"More and more, food companies are embracing digitization and becoming data-driven," said Bernard Lahousse, co-founder of Foodpairing, a startup with offices in Belgium and New York which develops digital food "maps" and algorithms to recommend food and drink combinations.
New York-based Analytical Flavor Systems uses AI to create a model or "gastrograph" of flavor, aroma, and texture to predict consumer preference of food and beverage products.
The platform, which recently raised $4 million in funding, aims to help companies "create better, more targeted and healthy products for consumers," according to founder Jason Cohen.
Foodpairing, for example, offers its "flavor intelligence" map based on molecular analysis: a Spanish dry-cured ham, for example, has elements described as "cheesy" or acidic while beetroots have a "woody" and "caramellic" flavor profile.
Lahousse said one of its notable pairing recommendations was oysters and kiwi, which became a signature dish at a well-known Belgian restaurant.
"Foodpairing maps out all possible pairings, but food is cultural and personal," he said. "That is why we also use consumer behavior to increase the relevance of the pairings when we work with food companies."
Basil from MIT
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology illustrated how AI can be useful in determining optimal growing conditions by growing basil with supercharged flavor, and hope to adapt that for other products.
"Artificial intelligence could give us the ability to utilize vast datasets of detailed agricultural information for the improvement of our food crops, faster than ever before," said John de la Parra, head of MIT's Open Agriculture Initiative.
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