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How Machine Learning and Blockchain Can Solve World Hunger

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How Machine Learning and Blockchain Can Solve World Hunger

India’s GHI score has also slowed – from 38.8 in 2000 to a range of 28.8 to 27.5 between 2012 and 2021 |

According to the United Nations Hunger Report, more than 800 million people do not have enough to eat, resulting in nearly 10% of the total population going hungry (food insecure) every day. The World Food Program (WFP) reports that more than 48 million people face emergency levels of hunger, with the threat of acute malnutrition, starvation and death. Compared to people acutely food insecure at crisis levels or worse in 2020, there will be an increase of almost 40 million people in 2021 who will be acutely food insecure at crisis levels or worse. The United Nations Hunger Hotspots report highlights Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen as the countries with the highest levels of hunger in the world. Many factors such as conflict, extreme weather, and disparities caused by economic shocks and health crises, including the coronavirus pandemic, are driving food insecurity around the world. Even the war in Ukraine has aggravated the hunger crisis, as conflict restricts the global food supply, drives up prices and threatens the world’s most vulnerable people and countries.

On the other hand, we waste more than 1.3 billion tons of food worth nearly $2.6 trillion. According to the latest UN research conducted to support global efforts to halve food waste by 2030, it has been found that almost 931 million tonnes of food, or almost 17% of the total food available for consumers in 2019, went to waste. households, retailers, restaurants and other food services.

Somdip Dey

There is still hope in the fight against food insecurity

However, we live in a time of the digital age where technological advancements such as machine learning and blockchain have been catapulted by the progress of the fourth industrial revolution. With such technological advances, we still have hope of tackling food insecurity around the world. Machine learning is a computing method that can understand patterns in digital data very well automatically, and now computing machines are able to take other actions based on patterns learned from digital data. On the other hand, blockchain offers us the flexibility to digitize any physical asset with the convenience of internet security.

Apps focused on food waste, not hunger reduction

In recent years, we have seen a surge in the development of several apps aimed at helping to reduce food waste. For example, the OLIO app helps consumers share their leftovers with their neighbors and, on the other hand, we have apps like Too Good To Go and Karma that help reduce food waste at the retail level by allowing shops and supermarkets to sell foods that are about to expire at a reduced price. While these apps are helping to tackle the food waste crisis on some level, none of these apps are proactively helping to reduce hunger.

Currently, most of the hunger-related apps that are available aim to reduce food insecurities through a donation-based operation. For example, the United Nations World Food Program’s ShareTheMeal app solicits a donation of $0.80 per meal, which in turn buys a meal to distribute in food-insecure areas around the world. On the other hand, we have the nosh app, which is a machine learning-based food management app that helps consumers buy expiring foods at a discount from food vendors. and a portion of the proceeds from the transaction goes to hunger-related charities. While these applications are a step towards eradicating food waste and hunger, current technologies could be further extended to more effectively address hunger-related issues.

Today, many key players in the food supply chain still use distributed paper trails as part of food production, consumption, surplus and waste, making it more difficult to track trends in these statistics along the agri-food supply chain. For example, supermarkets may be aware of the amount of food sold or stored in stock, but they may not have accurate data on food consumption and consumer waste habits. Similarly, farmers may have an idea of ​​how much food is produced or sold at warehouses, stores and supermarkets, but farmers may not have accurate information on how much food is wasted at the store, warehouse , supermarkets and consumers. This decoupling of food information within the food supply chain creates an abstract layer that makes it harder to track and track food consumption and waste data, which in retrospect makes it difficult to transfer surpluses. and food waste to food insecure areas to address hunger. – related problems.

The role digitization and blockchain can play in solving the crisis

To address such a problem, the food supply chain needs to adopt standardized digitization of food data which could be achieved using blockchain technology, as this technology makes it easier to trace and verify the source of the data. At the same time, machine learning could be used on such digitized food data on blockchain in the supply chain to understand patterns of consumption, surplus and waste along the supply chain, from so that if there is a surplus or waste of food in areas, they could be moved to areas affected by food insecurity.

Additionally, blockchain-based cryptocurrencies could also play an important role in reducing hunger. Compared to fiat currencies such as the dollar, rupee, and pound, consumers do not need a bank account or have to comply with stringent financial regulations to hold, buy, or sell cryptocurrencies. This means that cryptocurrencies could be used by anyone, regardless of geopolitical concerns, which makes such a currency more preferable to be used to eradicate hunger. For example, companies in developed regions such as the UK and the US trying to reduce food waste could convert some of the profits into cryptocurrencies that could be sent to food insecure areas such as the Sudan, Ethiopia, and Yemen, so cryptocurrencies could be used to buy and deliver food in those regions without worrying about general issues with currency conversions and cross-border transfers. However, this type of technology system would require collaboration between different entities within the supply chain and government. And also, requires de-stigmatization of blockchain-based technologies such as cryptocurrencies worldwide.

Although it may seem that we are a long way from realizing this utopia of a world without hunger using technology today, this dream could still be realized shortly if we all become more aware of the problems related to hunger and keep with an open mind by adopting such technologies. to create a fairer world – a world without hunger.

The author, Somdip Dey, is a lecturer at the University of Essex, UK.

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