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  • Writer's pictureDanielle van Hout

Eye on AI - September 16th, 2022

Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!


We return to olfactory AI this week as we look into a new tool that can mimic and create different smells, then will be switching gears to understand the new food production and demand data tracker being implemented in Africa that uses an interactive map to help control food security.


New Tool Aims to ID & Predict Smells for Medical Use and Beyond

What makes a molecule have a smell? That’s the question a team of researchers hoped to answer when creating a new tool that could identify and recreate smells at the molecular level. And, according to the article “Artificial Intelligence Tool Aims to Identify, Predict Smells,” they were able to create such a tool by using a neural network to map out existing odors and help create new ones.

“The team… calls the newly developed tool a ‘principal odor map,’” writes VOA contributor Bryan Lynn “The main purpose of the map is to ‘predict the odor properties of molecules… The neural network models were also trained to identify which molecular characteristics were needed to make correct smell predictions.”

The mapping tool recognizes odorous molecules from their structure, which is essential to predicting future smell outcomes. There are billions of molecules that are likely odorous. Mapping them out by structure allows odor outcomes to be more easily predicted when molecules are combined.

The tool, according to researchers, can be used across different fields, and with different purposes. For instance, it recently discovered a series of new molecules that can repel mosquitos with at least the same effectiveness as DEET, a chemical commonly used in insect repellants.

“This discovery… can lead to the development of less costly, longer lasting, and safer repellants than those containing DEET,” continues Lynn. “Such repellants could be used ‘to reduce the worldwide incidence of diseases like malaria, potentially saving countless lives…’”

Other use case examples might include identifying the molecular odors of early-stage diseases such as cancers to help with early prevention, creating new food flavors with enhanced taste properties, or even new fragrances with identifiable healing properties.

Gro Intelligence Launches Food Security Tracker in Africa

Switching gears, let’s return to one of our favorite topics: precision farming. According to the article “New Tool Aims to Strengthen Food Security in Africa,” Gro Intelligence, a company that uses AI to analyze agriculture and climate data, recently partnered with the Rockefeller Foundation to launch its Food Security Tracker for Africa to help address food security.

“The Food Security Tracker for Africa is based on Gro Intelligence’s global data and analytics platform,” writes Food Tank contributor Jonathan Ribich. “Users can click on a country to access information on crop production, crop stocks and demand, import price, drought conditions, and crop health for a selected major crop.”

The tracker uses a machine learning yield prediction framework to generate 80+ production forecast models for agricultural products common throughout Africa, across 49 different countries, incorporating real-time environmental and historical production data to predict food production levels and available supply. Production forecasts update weekly to ensure users are working with the most relevant information. By contrasting crop yield projections with crop demand for consumption, Gro’s team is able to map out a stocks-to-use ratio for a selected crop and country over a 12-month period.

“By indicating ‘critical areas of food insecurity,’ [the Gro Intelligence team] hopes the food security tracker ‘can help policy makers at the government level and aid organizations to better allocate resources,’” continues Ribich.

Operational funding for The Food Security Tracker for Africa will last one year. That time is expected to be extended, as The Rockefeller Foundation has already given assurance of its continued commitment to the region, which is currently facing its worst food crisis since 1945.

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