Walmart has developed a new food inspection technology called Eden that can forecast and detect food spoilage, which in turn could help the company prevent food waste. According to a recent blog post by Parvez Musani, Vice President of Supply Chain Technology at Walmart, the company can save up to $2 billion in food waste in the next five years with their new Eden system.
“Eden’s suite of apps helps Walmart associates better monitor and care for fresh fruits and vegetables that are waiting to be shipped from distribution centers to stores. That could mean more efficiently ripening bananas, predicting the shelf life of tomatoes while they’re still on the vine, or prioritizing the flow of green grocery items from the back of the store to the shelf,” wrote Musani.
The Eden system was developed by Walmart engineers during a company competition aimed at finding the best way to preserve fruit and vegetable freshness from suppliers to their stores. The technology makes use of a digital library full of USDA-compliant food product specifications, Walmart’s specific product standards and over a million descriptive food photos. By incorporating machine learning into the system, Eden can identify food product quality from pictures, travel times and even temperatures.
“For example, take everybody’s favorite, the banana. This tasty fruit is consistently among the best-selling grocery items in Walmart’s US stores. Bananas travel from seven countries in Latin America to over 4,000 stores in the US. On such a long road, what happens to those bananas if temperatures in the container trucks exceed acceptable ranges? In the future, Eden will be able to recalculate the freshness factor and re-route the shipment immediately. The bananas end up in a closer store to optimize freshness, consumers take home a delicious bunch, and everyone is happy,” wrote Musani in his blog post.
In January 2017, Walmart deployed their Eden technology to 43 food distribution centers across America which has saved the company $83 million in food waste prevention since that year. The system is currently being optimized at these distribution centers by employees who are scanning pictures of produce and digitally recording product defects into the system. In the future, Eden will be able to automatically scan fruit and vegetable images and determine if they meet quality standards.
According to Musani, Walmart is planning on expanding Eden’s reach to their supplier farms so that they can have a hand in every aspect of product production and sales. In a recent Business Insider interview Musani said that the company will be investing in drones that are integrated with the Eden system so that they can fly them over supplier farms to monitor temperatures and other factors that affect the quality of produce.