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!

Pfizer HPC Engineer Aims to Automate Software Stack Testing

January 17, 2019

Seeking to reign in the tediousness of manual software testing, Pfizer HPC Engineer Shahzeb Siddiqui is developing an open source software tool called buildtest, aimed at automating software stack testing by providing the community with a central repository of tests for common HPC apps and the ability to automate execution of testing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Senegal Prepares to Take Delivery of Atos Supercomputer

January 16, 2019

In just a few months time, Senegal will be operating the second largest HPC system in sub-Saharan Africa. The Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation Mary Teuw Niane made the announcement on Monday (Jan. 14 Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Cloud Platform Extends GPU Instance Options

January 16, 2019

If it's Nvidia GPUs you're after to power your AI/HPC/visualization workload, Google Cloud has them, now claiming "broadest GPU availability." Each of the three big public cloud vendors has by turn touted the latest and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Systems With Intel Omni-Path: Architected for Value and Accessible High-Performance Computing

Today’s high-performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI) users value high performing clusters. And the higher the performance that their system can deliver, the better. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Resource Management in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

New challenges demand fresh approaches

Fueled by GPUs, big data, and rapid advances in software, the AI revolution is upon us. Read more…

STAC Floats ML Benchmark for Financial Services Workloads

January 16, 2019

STAC (Securities Technology Analysis Center) recently released an ‘exploratory’ benchmark for machine learning which it hopes will evolve into a firm benchmark or suite of benchmarking tools to compare the performanc Read more…

By John Russell

Google Cloud Platform Extends GPU Instance Options

January 16, 2019

If it's Nvidia GPUs you're after to power your AI/HPC/visualization workload, Google Cloud has them, now claiming "broadest GPU availability." Each of the three Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

STAC Floats ML Benchmark for Financial Services Workloads

January 16, 2019

STAC (Securities Technology Analysis Center) recently released an ‘exploratory’ benchmark for machine learning which it hopes will evolve into a firm benchm Read more…

By John Russell

A Big Data Journey While Seeking to Catalog our Universe

January 16, 2019

It turns out, astronomers have lots of photos of the sky but seek knowledge about what the photos mean. Sound familiar? Big data problems are often characterize Read more…

By James Reinders

Intel Bets Big on 2-Track Quantum Strategy

January 15, 2019

Quantum computing has lived so long in the future it’s taken on a futuristic life of its own, with a Gartner-style hype cycle that includes triggers of innovation, inflated expectations and – though a useful quantum system is still years away – anticipatory troughs of disillusionment. Read more…

By Doug Black

IBM Quantum Update: Q System One Launch, New Collaborators, and QC Center Plans

January 10, 2019

IBM made three significant quantum computing announcements at CES this week. One was introduction of IBM Q System One; it’s really the integration of IBM’s Read more…

By John Russell

IBM’s New Global Weather Forecasting System Runs on GPUs

January 9, 2019

Anyone who has checked a forecast to decide whether or not to pack an umbrella knows that weather prediction can be a mercurial endeavor. It is a Herculean task: the constant modeling of incredibly complex systems to a high degree of accuracy at a local level within very short spans of time. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Computing Will Never Work

November 27, 2018

Amid the gush of money and enthusiastic predictions being thrown at quantum computing comes a proposed cold shower in the form of an essay by physicist Mikhail Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Unveils Shasta, Lands NERSC-9 Contract

October 30, 2018

Cray revealed today the details of its next-gen supercomputing architecture, Shasta, selected to be the next flagship system at NERSC. We've known of the code-name "Shasta" since the Argonne slice of the CORAL project was announced in 2015 and although the details of that plan have changed considerably, Cray didn't slow down its timeline for Shasta. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Sets Up for Epyc Epoch

November 16, 2018

It’s been a good two weeks, AMD’s Gary Silcott and Andy Parma told me on the last day of SC18 in Dallas at the restaurant where we met to discuss their show news and recent successes. Heck, it’s been a good year. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

US Leads Supercomputing with #1, #2 Systems & Petascale Arm

November 12, 2018

The 31st Supercomputing Conference (SC) - commemorating 30 years since the first Supercomputing in 1988 - kicked off in Dallas yesterday, taking over the Kay Ba Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Contract Signed for New Finnish Supercomputer

December 13, 2018

After the official contract signing yesterday, configuration details were made public for the new BullSequana system that the Finnish IT Center for Science (CSC Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia’s Jensen Huang Delivers Vision for the New HPC

November 14, 2018

For nearly two hours on Monday at SC18, Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, presented his expansive view of the future of HPC (and computing in general) as only he can do. Animated. Backstopped by a stream of data charts, product photos, and even a beautiful image of supernovae... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 18 Virtual Booth Video Tour

Advania @ SC18 AMD @ SC18
ASRock Rack @ SC18
DDN Storage @ SC18
HPE @ SC18
IBM @ SC18
Lenovo @ SC18 Mellanox Technologies @ SC18
NVIDIA @ SC18
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

HPE No. 1, IBM Surges, in ‘Bucking Bronco’ High Performance Server Market

September 27, 2018

Riding healthy U.S. and global economies, strong demand for AI-capable hardware and other tailwind trends, the high performance computing server market jumped 28 percent in the second quarter 2018 to $3.7 billion, up from $2.9 billion for the same period last year, according to industry analyst firm Hyperion Research. Read more…

By Doug Black

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Reflections and (Mostly Hopeful) Predictions

December 19, 2018

So much ‘spaghetti’ gets tossed on walls by the technology community (vendors and researchers) to see what sticks that it is often difficult to peer through Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Confirms 48-Core Cascade Lake-AP for 2019

November 4, 2018

As part of the run-up to SC18, taking place in Dallas next week (Nov. 11-16), Intel is doling out info on its next-gen Cascade Lake family of Xeon processors, specifically the “Advanced Processor” version (Cascade Lake-AP), architected for high-performance computing, artificial intelligence and infrastructure-as-a-service workloads. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Germany Celebrates Launch of Two Fastest Supercomputers

September 26, 2018

The new high-performance computer SuperMUC-NG at the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Garching is the fastest computer in Germany and one of the fastest i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Houston to Field Massive, ‘Geophysically Configured’ Cloud Supercomputer

October 11, 2018

Based on some news stories out today, one might get the impression that the next system to crack number one on the Top500 would be an industrial oil and gas mon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft to Buy Mellanox?

December 20, 2018

Networking equipment powerhouse Mellanox could be an acquisition target by Microsoft, according to a published report in an Israeli financial publication. Microsoft has reportedly gone so far as to engage Goldman Sachs to handle negotiations with Mellanox. Read more…

By Doug Black

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer Read more…

By John Russell

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