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Using AI to feed the world

Developing software to monitor nutritional needs

Capgemini’s Applied Innovation Exchange is working with global organizations and charities to end malnutrition and help create a more sustainable future for everyone

World hunger is one of the greatest challenges of our time. According to the World Food Programme, more than 800 million people globally lack food security. More than 60% of those live in areas plagued by ongoing political and social conflicts, causing many of them to be severely malnourished.

“What’s happening at the moment is that a lot of the time, organizations and charities on the ground in disaster zones are under a lot of pressure to act quickly,” says Maartje de Laat, Senior Innovation Consultant at Capgemini’s Applied Innovation Exchange (AIE) in Utrecht. “They may not have the time or means to supply different groups with the tailored nutrition they need to fight the impacts of malnutrition. As a result, they’re often forced to reach for the basics, but that’s not always the best choice.”

Together with the World Food Programme, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, and Tilburg University’s Zero Hunger Lab,  AIE is looking to tackle this problem using big data and AI under the umbrella of Project ENHANCE: Environment, Nutrition, and Health Analytics for National, Consumer, and Emergency diets.

Reimagining the cost of diet

Started in 2020, Project ENHANCE is currently working to improve a software application called Cost of Diet. The platform was originally developed by Save the Children and helps calculate how much money is needed to give malnourished families enough food to meet their nutritional requirements.

“At the moment, calculations are made by sharing cost sheets, but prices fluctuate a lot so it’s tricky for representatives on the ground to stay up to date,” says Maartje. In addition to this, analyzing different data points was taking too long. Organizations had to reach out to the World Food Programme directly to get relevant regional data and then wait for someone to run the numbers.

There was an urgent need to make the platform more efficient, accessible, and user-friendly.

“We want to empower different countries and organizations to run the analytics themselves, creating shortcuts and reducing their response times. By automating the process as much as we can, the improved platform will be a lot more agile and dynamic, faster, and easier to use. Then we should also be able to make it available to as many people as possible,” says de Laat.

In addition to dietary requirements and nutritional value, the next phase of ENHANCE will also take factors such as fossil depletion, water or land usage, as well as potential food price fluctuation into consideration. This allows the application to create sustainable, cost-resistant food selections tailored to different regions and nutritional needs.

Creating shortcuts for a better world

While the World Food Programme supplies the all-important data and analytics from which the project draws, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future oversees the environmental data. Meanwhile, Tilburg University’s Zero Hunger Lab is working on the algorithm needed to optimize the platform’s performance.

“Our job is to make their life easier,” explains Maartje. “We’re setting up a platform for them with our hosting partner Amazon Web Services that will be able to clean the data and make sure it gets into the right folders, so the algorithm can pick up the information and send it through to the dashboard.

“A detailed visual dashboard will enable users to view and compare different variables such as cost and nutritional values for people in different regions and groups – for example, for a pregnant woman in Kenya.” The Cost of Diet platform will also serve as an important source of information for governments, organizations, and charities such as Save the Children.

Reaching more people

While the data is initially only going to be available to a core group at the World Food Programme, it’s set to become more accessible with time and testing. Eventually, the plan is to make the application available to as many people as possible. Among others, this will include partner organizations of the World Food Programme and their representatives on the ground all over the world, allowing them to access and run analytics tailored to their regions independently. For Capgemini, Project ENHANCE is part of a greater, overarching company initiative called Food for a Better World, which aims to feed the planet by actively supporting projects that align with our vision to create a more sustainable future for everyone.

Inside stories

Applied Innovation Exchange

Capgemini’s AIE is a global platform for innovation. It brings together a framework for action, a network of exchanges, and a diverse ecosystem