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Advancing Sustainable Food Systems with AI and Digitalisation: Challenges and Solutions

The employment of AI and digitalisation in sustainable food systems is a topic that is gaining increasing attention from academia and industry in the UK. This article delves into the potential of AI and digitalisation in facilitating the transition towards sustainable food systems while also addressing the challenges that need to be overcome to fully harness their benefits.

This discussion highlights the ways in which AI and digitalisation can enhance the efficiency and productivity of farming operations, minimise environmental impact, and improve the safety and quality of food products. However, the extent of their adoption and integration will vary across different sectors and regions and will necessitate ongoing dialogue concerning data ownership, privacy, and transparency.

A significant obstacle in the farm-to-fork data space is the vulnerability of farmers in relation to the supply chain. Farmers often work with a patchwork of ICT tools that yield poorly interoperable data, resulting in challenges in compiling and utilising data generated on their farms. To address this issue, we propose public-private agreements on architectural principles of both technical and organisational nature. These agreements would serve as the foundation for improving the position of farmers in the farm-to-fork data space.

In addition to data ownership and privacy concerns, cybersecurity is also vital in preventing criminal and terrorist activities that endanger citizens and society as a whole. Advanced policing, as well as public and private awareness of risks, are required to ensure cybersecurity.

Vendor lock-in is another challenge that needs to be addressed, wherein aggressive marketing strategies may stifle innovation. Solutions such as open standards exist but require regulatory support for implementation. To fully realise the potential of AI and digitalisation, competencies must be developed to manage the new processes' increased complexity. Support must be provided for developing this expertise to prevent societal disparities between those who adopt and those who do not.

Trust and transparency are critical in establishing reliable and resilient supply chain networks. Targeted approaches have the potential to achieve these solutions and revolutionise current supply chains. Moreover, integrated data management solutions with sensor and observational data on individual food products across various supply chain segments can enhance transparency by mapping the product's history.

AI and digitalisation offer immense potential in advancing sustainable food systems that are balanced with society. Nonetheless, addressing the challenges is crucial to fully realise their potential. Collaboration among all actors in the food value chain, as well as an unwavering focus on sustainable development, are required to ensure that the benefits of AI and digitalisation are experienced by all.


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