Barriers to increased automation and technological development in food processing

The most important barrier for introduction of technology with artificial intelligence in processing of food in Norway, is the complexity of the new technology. The new technology is difficult for firms to adopt with their current knowledge base.

Increased automation

Increased use of automation with artificial intelligence has changed the production processes in almost every industrial sector the last decades. Processing of food has so far been an exception to this trend. Several explanations can be given for this, with the product itself as the largest. New innovative technology, which can better handle fragile raw materials, are now available. However, the degree of automation is still low. This indicate obstacles in further technological development and raise questions like: Why is the degree of automation still so low? What kind of barriers do the firms face? In this survey, we aim to analyse why this industry lag behind, and why these firms seem to struggle to adopt new and more flexible technology. The purpose of the study is to investigate if the firms experience any particular barriers, or bottlenecks, for adoption of technology with artificial intelligence.

Survey

In order to analyse the challenges in technological development for Norwegian food processing firms, we conduct a tailored innovation survey. In total, 250 firms of different size attended. This accounted for 10 % of all processing firms in Norway. The firm’s processes raw material from both agriculture and seafood. The data collection took the form of telephone interviews with the chief executive. The 25 questions were mainly related to automation, but the firms were also asked about their R&D capabilities, motivation factors for increased innovation and collaboration skills.

New business models

The overall purpose of the survey is to investigate if there are any strategies or business models that are more successful than others when firms consider to adopt new technology. This is important because introduction of new and more flexible technology has the ability to foster higher efficiency and better profitability, which again will contribute to increase the valued added. Therefore, to improve the understanding of the factors that increase the competitiveness of the Norwegian food processing industry, it is important to examine the barriers for adoption of new technology.

The econometric analyses indicate that several barriers for introduction of new technology is present. The fact that new technology is too complex and too difficult to understand seems to be the most important challenge for technological development. However, the low level of education and low degree of collaboration in the industry will also have large effects on the technological adoption. We find that only 12 % of the employees have higher education, and only 56 % of the firms collaborate with others in technological issues. Furthermore, 64 % of the firms do not have employees that are particularly dedicated to R&D work, and 75 % does not have a dedicated R&D budget.

According to our finding, there is reason to believe that firms that seeks to increase automation need to increase their competence in several areas.

Decisionmaking tool

In processing of food, the firms first and foremost need increased technological competencies to understand the new technology in a proper way.  According to this, the collaboration skills seems to be developed, both in the national and international context.

There is reason to believe that the business models will change in the years to come. Structures that emphasises technological and collaboration skills will be more important than ever to increase the use of artificial intelligence in processing of food in Norway.

By: Ragnar Tveterås and Hilde Sandvold

 

 

Level of education for most of the employees in the food processing industry

To the left — The degree of automation and use of artificial intelligence in the Norwegian food processing industry. To the right — Different types of collaboration partners in the innovation processes in the Norwegian food processing industry.