London: A novel artificial intelligence (AI) based food monitoring smartphone app can help households keep better track of their fridge and cupboard food stocks during the COVID-19 pandemic, say scientists, including those from India.
The outbreak has totally changed most people's food buying habits -- from stockpiling groceries in the early weeks of the crisis to shopping less often, at different times and in different ways, according to the researchers at the University of Essex in the UK.
However, these changes have also meant households run the risk of having more food wastage as they adapt to new shopping routines, they said.
Using AI, the 'nosh' app allows the users to track the expiry date of food items along with their buying and food waste habits, which enables them to make an informed decision on what items to buy.
The users can plan their shopping in-app before they go out to buy the items, said the researchers, including Suman Saha from the University of Engineering and Management (UEM) in Kolkata, and programming enthusiast Lakshya Gupta.
The users are also able to get recipe suggestions on the stocked items so they can utilise the items better before they expire. "When the COVID-19 crisis started, we were no different from anyone else affected by the pandemic," explained Somdip Dey, who collaborated with Anupam Ghosal on the project.
"Everyone started to overbuy food as they wanted to isolate and practice social distancing. However, the biggest issue faced was managing a lot of food items in the fridge, especially the ones which have short expiry dates," Dey said.
With no app available on the market to make it easy for households to be reminded of food expiry dates while effectively managing their food supplies and track buying habits, the Essex team along with colleagues in India decided to develop one.
"At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic there was uncertainty around supplies and people started to panic buy food and other necessary items," said Ghosal.
Stores started running out and people started over-consuming. Due to a lack of management a lot of food was wasted every single day which could have fed someone in need, the researchers said.
"We clearly realised the lack in management of food resources, so we came up with the 'nosh' app, the solution to the food problem during the pandemic," Ghosal added.