Walmart is unleashing a weapon worth $2 billion that could deal a blow to Whole Foods

Walmart's is developing a machine that knows when fruit will spoil.

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Walmart’s is developing a machine that knows when fruit will spoil.
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Walmart

  • Walmart is developing a technology called Eden that inspects produce for defects.
  • Eden will ultimately be able to predict the shelf life of produce as well, using factors like appearance and temperatures where it is stored.
  • If temperatures spike on trucks carrying produce, Eden will reroute the truck to a closer destination, since rising temperatures shorten shelf life.
  • Walmart says the technology will save $2 billion in food waste over the next five years.
  • The technology could also deal a blow to Whole Foods, which has been facing customer complaints about the quality of its produce.

Walmart is developing a technology that inspects fruits and vegetables for defects and can accurately predict the exact date when it will spoil.

The company says the technology, called Eden, will save Walmart $2 billion over the next five years, mostly through a reduction in food waste.

It has already saved Walmart $86 million since it was deployed to its 43 food-distribution centers in January of last year, according to Parvez Musani, vice president of supply chain technology engineering at Walmart Labs.

“We are constantly looking at technology to serve our customers better,” Musani told Business Insider in an interview.

Walmart Eden

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Walmart

For now, Eden is in the early stages of development.

Employees at Walmart’s distribution centers use it to digitally record defects and get rid of produce that doesn’t pass USDA and Walmart quality requirements.

Soon, Eden will be able to make those judgments autonomously by scanning images of the produce that comes through the distribution centers, and comparing those images to a library of acceptable and unacceptable versions of produce.

The technology will become more accurate over time, and ultimately it will be able to predict the exact shelf life of the produce that Walmart sells by incorporating data like the temperature where the food is stored.

To monitor temperature, Walmart will attach tracking devices to cases of produce as they travel on trucks between farms, distribution centers, and stores, Musani said.

If temperatures rise above optimal ranges during travel, Eden will reroute the trucks to a closer destination, since rising temperatures contribute to faster spoilage.

For example, if produce on a truck traveling to Texas from California has been exposed to high temperatures, Eden could immediately reroute the truck to Arizona, Musani said.

The technology will soon extend to the farms of Walmart’s suppliers as well.

“We’ll have drones flying over the farms” to monitor temperatures and other factors that determine the quality of the produce Walmart is getting from suppliers, Musani said.

The company said the technology will not replace workers, however, saying humans will always be involved in the process of determining food quality.

“The machines will just help speed things up,” Musani said.