The Food Industry’s Next Journey — from Mars to Exascale

By Scott Gibson, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

February 12, 2018

Editor’s note: Global food producer Mars, Incorporated participates in the US Exascale Computing Project’s Industry Council, which formed in February 2017 to facilitate information exchange between the ECP and the industrial user community. In this contributed article, ORNL’s Scott Gibson describes Mars’ efforts to leverage next-generation computing technologies to improve food safety and sustainability and create manufacturing efficiencies.

Mars, the world’s leading chocolate company and one of the largest food manufacturers, has a unique perspective on the impact that exascale computing will have on the food industry.

Creating a Safer and More Sustainable Food Supply Chain

“The food industry needs to address several grand challenges by developing innovative and sustainable solutions at the intersection of food, agriculture and health. Leveraging the power of technology will be critical on this journey. Exascale, for example, is going to be a radical enabler for helping the food, nutrition and agriculture sectors to evolve and possibly even revolutionize themselves to address these grand challenges,” said Harold Schmitz, chief science officer for Mars and director of the Mars Advanced Research Institute. Schmitz is a member of the US Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project Industry Council, a group of external advisors from some of the most prominent companies in the United States.

The Exascale Computing Project represents the next frontier in computing. An exascale ecosystem, expected in the 2021 time frame, will provide computational and data analysis performance at least 50 times more powerful than the fastest supercomputers in use today, and will maximize the benefits of high-performance computing (HPC) for many industries. In the case of the food industry, exascale will offer new solutions that can improve food manufacturing practices, yielding safer and more healthful products, more efficient industrial processes and a reduced carbon footprint.

“The power of exascale has the potential to advance the work of a first-of-its-kind effort led by Mars and the IBM Research – Almaden Lab, called the Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain,” Schmitz said. The consortium is centered on surveillance, risk assessment, and diagnoses of food-borne pathogens, and it is one of the few efforts in the world using the best tools of genomics, biology, and chemistry to understand nutrition, public health, and food safety.

“Although food safety has progressed immensely over the last hundred years—most notably through improvements in shelf life and the addition of macronutrients for preventive health—it remains a major challenge for food manufacturers,” Schmitz said. One in six Americans suffers a food-borne illness each year, and 3,000 of those affected die, according to the US Centers for Disease Control. Across the globe, almost 1 in 10 people fall ill every year from eating contaminated food and 420,000 perish as a result, reports the World Health Organization.

Increased industry and regulatory attention on pathogens such as Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria and aflatoxin has led to breakthroughs that make our food safer, but more must be done. Scientists need a method by which they can understand the pathogens in various contexts, including the microbial community, the microbiome and the broader food chain. Going one step further, they need a method that enables them to anticipate how the pathogen would behave in real scenarios, such as: a field where crops are grown and harvested; during travel on various transportation channels; or in factory environments where ingredients are processed.

“The consortium aims to revolutionize our understanding of how to predict pathogen outbreaks and discover what environments stimulate pathogens to behave badly, or what microbial environments are able to keep pathogen outbreaks under control,” Schmitz said. “In essence, we want to sequence the genome of the food supply chain and then use data analytics to understand its microbial community. We’re working at the intersection of HPC and the field of systems biology. In this case, the system is the food supply chain, from farm to fork”

Mars has used genome sequencing to progress its efforts to improve the supply-chain sustainability of one of its key ingredients: cocoa. It is a low-yield crop grown primarily in countries that lack the scientific and technological resources to modernize it.

“We realized we needed to give the most talented agricultural scientists a tool box to make the cocoa crop sustainable,” Schmitz said. That tool box is the genome. So, from 2008 to 2010, Mars, IBM, and the US Department of Agriculture Research Service and several other collaborators sequenced the genome of Theobroma cacao, an economically important tropical fruiting tree that is the source of chocolate.

“Analyzing genomic data allowed us to understand how diverse genotypes of cacao perform in different environments. This information is then used to breed superior varieties, with increased yields, quality and stress tolerance,” said Jim Kennedy, computational science leader at the Mars Advanced Research Institute. “We also use data analytics to understand how genetic and environmental factors contribute to pest and disease losses.  This information is used to develop environmentally friendly strategies to improve crop health.”

“Since our breakthrough on Theobroma cacao, we’ve already seen great improvements in cocoa,” Schmitz said. “When exascale comes online it will introduce food and agriculture data scientists to an exciting new world of opportunity.”

He explained that exascale will provide food data scientists with an unprecedented level of computing power to probe molecular food chemistry in a manner akin to how the pharmaceutical industry uses technology to study protein molecular dynamics.

“Modeling, simulation and data analytics with exascale will inform food design in a way that the empirical method, or trial and error, never could,” Schmitz said. “There is possibility for this to help unlock some of the biggest food and nutritional challenges that we face today.”

Designing More Efficient Manufacturing Processes

The HPC teams at Mars, which partner with DOE National Laboratories to bolster their computational science efforts, use modeling and simulation and data analytics to optimize not only the company’s supply-chain processes but also its design manufacturing processes. The teams employ tools such as computational fluid dynamics, discrete element method, and multiphysics-type deterministic models in HPC.

“We’re applying multiphysics models to better understand some of our essential processes such as extrusion,” Kennedy said. Extrusion is a fundamental process in which product ingredients are fed into a barrel and forced through a screw. The functions of mixing, sterilization, or cooking may take place in the barrel. Mars products such as confection candy, toffee candy, and pet food undergo extrusion.

“If we’re designing a new extrusion process, we’ll use modeling to optimize the design,” Kennedy said. “In the past, we would over-engineer and end up with an extruder that was one-and-a-half times bigger than what we needed. Modeling enables us to understand what the design parameters should be before we cut steel and build anything. But we’ve learned we need more computing power and speed, like what exascale will provide, to handle the complexity of our processes.”

Reducing the Greenhouse Gas Footprint

Exascale will enable the food industry to pioneer more efficient manufacturing processes that use less energy, in turn lessening its environmental impact.

“The food and agriculture sectors are among the largest contributors to climate change and the loss of biodiversity,” Schmitz said. “The energy required in global agriculture, the greenhouse gases emitted, and the vast amount of land used are all contributors. The good news is that the advancements in HPC and the eventual arrival of exascale computing will enable the industry to better use data science advances to improve its environmental and ecological footprint.”

Spreading the Use of Data Science

“The advent of exascale will help spread the use of data science more widely,” Kennedy said. At present, most companies are facing a shortage of data scientists while the need for digitization is expanding. At the same time, companies are trying to automate some of the tasks that would normally require a data scientist, such as cleaning, normalizing, or preprocessing data for analysis, simulation, or modeling.

“Exascale will make it possible for computers to run through scenarios faster and provide the end-user with data output in language that non-experts can understand,” Kennedy said. “Then they can go about slicing and dicing the data to prepare it for simulation. I think exascale will bring that capability to the masses so that they can directly work with their data and gain the insights and ask the questions they need for their research.”

Mars recently confirmed a collaboration agreement with the Joint Institute for Computational Sciences, an Institute of the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Lab. The business plans to leverage the DOE computational infrastructure to find solutions for some of its most complex challenges and opportunities.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

InfiniBand Still Tops in Supercomputing

July 19, 2018

In the competitive global HPC landscape, system and processor vendors, nations and end user sites certainly get a lot of attention--deservedly so--but more than ever, the network plays a crucial role. While fast, perform Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC for Life: Genomics, Brain Research, and Beyond

July 19, 2018

During the past few decades, the life sciences have witnessed one landmark discovery after another with the aid of HPC, paving the way toward a new era of personalized treatments based on an individual’s genetic makeup Read more…

By Warren Froelich

WCRP’s New Strategic Plan for Climate Research Highlights the Importance of HPC

July 19, 2018

As climate modeling increasingly leverages exascale computing and researchers warn of an impending computing gap in climate research, the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) is developing its new Strategic Plan – and high-performance computing is slated to play a critical role. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Introducing the First Integrated System Management Software for HPC Clusters from HPE

How do you manage your complex, growing cluster environments? Answer that big challenge with the new HPC cluster management solution: HPE Performance Cluster Manager. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Are Your Software Licenses Impeding Your Productivity?

In my previous article, Improving chip yield rates with cognitive manufacturing, I highlighted the costs associated with semiconductor manufacturing, and how cognitive methods can yield benefits in both design and manufacture.  Read more…

U.S. Exascale Computing Project Releases Software Technology Progress Report

July 19, 2018

As is often noted the race to exascale computing isn’t just about hardware. This week the U.S. Exascale Computing Project (ECP) released its latest Software Technology (ST) Capability Assessment Report detailing progress so far. Read more…

By John Russell

InfiniBand Still Tops in Supercomputing

July 19, 2018

In the competitive global HPC landscape, system and processor vendors, nations and end user sites certainly get a lot of attention--deservedly so--but more than Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC for Life: Genomics, Brain Research, and Beyond

July 19, 2018

During the past few decades, the life sciences have witnessed one landmark discovery after another with the aid of HPC, paving the way toward a new era of perso Read more…

By Warren Froelich

D-Wave Breaks New Ground in Quantum Simulation

July 16, 2018

Last Friday D-Wave scientists and colleagues published work in Science which they say represents the first fulfillment of Richard Feynman’s 1982 notion that Read more…

By John Russell

AI Thought Leaders on Capitol Hill

July 14, 2018

On Thursday, July 12, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology heard from four academic and industry leaders – representatives from Berkeley Lab, Argonne Lab, GE Global Research and Carnegie Mellon University – on the opportunities springing from the intersection of machine learning and advanced-scale computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Serves as a ‘Rosetta Stone’ for the Information Age

July 12, 2018

In an age defined and transformed by its data, several large-scale scientific instruments around the globe might be viewed as a ‘mother lode’ of precious data. With names seemingly created for a ‘techno-speak’ glossary, these interferometers, cyclotrons, sequencers, solenoids, satellite altimeters, and cryo-electron microscopes are churning out data in previously unthinkable and seemingly incomprehensible quantities -- billions, trillions and quadrillions of bits and bytes of electro-magnetic code. Read more…

By Warren Froelich

Tsinghua Powers Through ISC18 Field

July 10, 2018

Tsinghua University topped all other competitors at the ISC18 Student Cluster Competition with an overall score of 88.43 out of 100. This gives Tsinghua their s Read more…

By Dan Olds

HPE, EPFL Launch Blue Brain 5 Supercomputer

July 10, 2018

HPE and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausannne (EPFL) Blue Brain Project yesterday introduced Blue Brain 5, a new supercomputer built by HPE, which displ Read more…

By John Russell

Pumping New Life into HPC Clusters, the Case for Liquid Cooling

July 10, 2018

High Performance Computing (HPC) faces some daunting challenges in the coming years as traditional, industry-standard systems push the boundaries of data center Read more…

By Scott Tease

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This