RedBlack Software and Campden BRI have secured a grant to look into whether artificial intelligence (AI) can improve bread dough mixing and cut bakery waste.

Currently, around 80% of UK bread is made using automated systems, with an automated bread line typically operating with two mixers feeding the line with up to 10,000 kg of dough an hour.

RedBlack and Campden BRI said poor-quality dough has major impacts on other processing stages, causing equipment failure and generating waste dough. They are launching a feasibility study, backed by a £68,000 Innovate UK grant, to develop a system to control mixer settings and improve dough quality.

“Getting dough mixes right is critical to operational success, but difficult to achieve,” said RedBlack Software managing director Jane Tyler.

“Because of this, bakers throw away considerable amounts of dough before it is ever baked. Our intelligent dough mixer project aims to minimise this – it could save commercial bakers significant amounts of time, costs and materials.”

Campden BRI is to carry out dough mixing and baking experiments to generate data for the new AI software, while RedBlack will combine scientific instrument data with data from human experts. This will be used to create predictive models that will look for patterns in the data to make recommendations on mixer settings.

Analysts will compare several different technologies to identify which can best find patterns and make predictions for the new application.

The companies claimed the control of dough mixing using AI represented the first significant chance to boost bakery efficiency in more than 20 years.

Waste charity WRAP has suggested £205m in waste is generated by industrial bakeries, according to Campden BRI, which said it believed the intelligent dough mixer project could help reduce this by up to 50%, depending on market penetration.

“By developing new approaches to improve dough mixing consistency, our project is intended to support government and industry efforts to reduce food waste, both in manufacturing and in the home,” said Gary Tucker, manager of Campden BRI’s baking and cereal processing department.

RedBlack Software produces Cybake systems, which are used by retail and wholesale bakers across the UK and Europe.