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Laval Virtual DaysAgriculture / Food IndustryFocus

In the food industry, “digital technology is a game-changer”

Laval Virtual Days on virtual reality in the food industry

The Laval Virtual Days Food took place in the Laval Virtual World on October 22nd.

Crédits photos : Laval Virtual / VirBELA

On October 22nd, Laval Virtual invited visitors to its virtual world for the Laval Virtual Days Food. The first edition of this event, now a monthly event, focused on the food industry. Professionals from the agriculture and food industry shared their experience with immersive technologies. Training, risk prevention, nutritional pedagogy: the topics were varied. One question was at the heart of the day: how can virtual reality be integrated into the agri-food industry, at a time when it is already very common in other industries?

The growing digital transformation of the food sector

Digital technology is a game-changer, of rhythms, the relationship to time, space, individuals, organisations and processes“. This is how Catherine Guyonnet, Director of Innovation and Services for Businesses and Assets at OCAPIAT, introduces her thoughts. Technologies are opening up new perspectives in the food sector, including virtual reality. “The health crisis has created an emergency,” she explains. Indeed, companies have been forced to readapt by adopting the remote. This quickly became the norm, and “opened up a royal road to digital technology“.

But the challenge lies in how to strike the right balance between physical and human distance. Catherine Guyonnet attaches great importance to supporting companies in their digitalisation process. You have to know how to choose the right digital tools and integrate them wisely, according to the right reference system. “When should we put in serious games? Or virtual reality?” OCAPIAT is a skills operator in charge of supporting professional training, particularly in the food sector. The organisation is convinced that new technologies, including immersive technologies, represent an opportunity to restore the attractiveness of training.

In addition to training, virtual and augmented reality can be useful for other functions. In all industries, there are 6 main uses, as Marie Leblanc, Head of Services at Laval Virtual, explains: design, training, decision support, operator assistance, marketing and communication, sales. She rightly points out that immersive technologies have not created an immediate need in the food industry. Today, however, they are mainly used for remote monitoring and alerts, for example for crops. The visualisation of data makes it possible to visualise the growth of plants. Augmented reality, on the other hand, serves as assistance and support for field treatment. Therefore, “there are more and more cases of the use of immersive technologies in the agricultural and food industry“.

Training, a mature use of virtual reality in the food industry

“A picture’s worth a thousand words”

Virtual reality and augmented reality are progressively imposing themselves in the food sector. One of the key factors in the digitalisation of companies is employee training. For many professional structures, the idea is to make use of interactive pedagogy. Xavier Negrie, Head of Training and Campus at Agromousquetaires, tells the story of the opening of a campus in 2018 that will integrate digital tools into training. Virtual classrooms have existed since that same year, which have been reused during the confinement. “There was a need for reactivity, to gain speed, to train just in time“. According to him, “the traditional and digital teaching methods will complement each other“.

Irène Azar, Innovation Project Manager at OCAPIAT, presented for the occasion an immersive training platform: “Entreprise Virtuelle” (Virtual Enterprise). The project is co-financed by the European Social Fund which supports OCAPIAT’s innovation approach. This platform represents “an unprecedented innovation in the food sector“. The objective is to make people discover professional environments that are often inaccessible: cutting places, fire safety. In partnership with Inedy and Evaveo, the immersive platform enables skills certifications to be validated in simulated situations. Virtual reality represents another way of learning and offers a wide range of skills acquisition. “It stimulates motivation, increases attention and enhances 4 of our 5 senses“.

Marc Bringuier, Augmented Reality Director at PTC, is also convinced by the use of immersive technologies for employee training. He introduces his speech with a very accurate reminder: “One hour after a training session, 50% of the training content has been integrated. 24 hours later, we lose 70% of the information, 90% a week later“. For him, augmented reality will improve employee training in the future. “Deploying Augmented Reality allows for an acceleration of the learning curve.” One of the advantages of AR is that its use does not disrupt the learner’s habits. “He can be trained at home, in training rooms or on production lines.” Augmented reality allows very rapid deployment of training modules.

AgroVirtu’Ose: an example of virtual training deployment in the food industry

Emmanuel Prouvost, Training Advisor at OCAPIAT, presented AgroVirtu’Ose, a collaborative project that brought together nine companies from the Picardie region in North of France. It is one of the first projects to introduce virtual reality training in the food sector. Why did these nine companies choose virtual reality? MOOCs, e-learning modules and serious games were presented to them. “They had a crush on VR/AR and saw several interests“. As we all know, employees are fully immersed in a professional world very close to their own. “The idea was to make a world that was as close as possible to their everyday working environment.

The AgroVirtu’Ose project is a autonomous tool, which is easily usable by employees. It is adapted to all companies, it is scalable and customisable. It also makes it possible to support new entrants to companies. AgroVirtu’Ose offers several types of training modules: risk hunting, fire alarm, reaction to an accident, cleaning. “AgroVirtu’Ose makes it easier for employees to learn and puts them at the heart of situations in which they can apply specific skills“.

In particular, the Bonduelle group has adopted AgroVirtu’Ose. Jean-Paul Loviny, Bonduelle’s Training Manager for France, discusses the deployment of the tool across the group’s 19 sites, which employ 4,000 people. This initiative is part of Bonduelle’s innovation strategy, which focuses on the safety and well-being of all employees at work. “The goal is to develop a true safety culture in order to achieve zero workplace accidents by 2025“. Jean-Paul Loviny continues: “We strongly believe in the development of digital technology.” Naturally, as in many sectors this year, the health context has speeded things up and shown that it is possible to deploy distance to a wider audience. But Jean-Paul Loviny makes it clear in conclusion: digital technology represents a complement to face-to-face training, where there is more of a human side thanks to the exchanges between the trainer and the learner.

Virtual reality in the food industry: perspectives and potential

For Nathalie Hutter-Lardeau, CEO of Evidence Santé, partner of these Laval Virtual Days Food, virtual reality can do more than just training modules. Evidence Santé helps companies communicate the health benefits of their activity. The question the director is asking herself today is: how is virtual reality used as a tool for nutritional education? “Food has been put back at the heart of our concerns during confinement“. Meals at home or in restaurants have become moments of pleasure and sharing. Many people are placing more and more importance on the nutritional benefits of what they eat. In the same way, they are demanding more transparency about the products they buy.

Virtual reality can improve our knowledge and our health“, Nathalie Hutter-Lardeau believes. To meet the need for transparency and knowledge, the technologies make it possible to film the fabrication of products live. Virtual reality factory visits can also be organised, as these are dangerous environments with many safety protocols. Digital also helps to optimise choices, for example through a Virtual Market. This is a virtual shop in which the consumer walks around. When he chooses his products, information is displayed in order to give him more information about what he is buying, whether in terms of composition or nutritional value. On this subject, Evidence Santé has designed a virtual reality experience for Lactel. It invited people to make pancakes virtually and gave live nutritional advice on the recipe established by the user.

The round table with Frédéric Baugniet (Alimento), Nathalie Chiron (Agricampus Laval), Reda Ezzaim (HTC) and Julien Masse (Ino-VR)

The half-day ended with a round table discussion, bringing together several experts to debate the perspectives of virtual reality in the food industry. Frédéric Baugniet, Training Adviser at Alimento, summed up the thoughts of many: “The energy deployed to implement digital tools is important“. It is important to support companies in the digitalisation process. “In the food industry, we have come a long way. Today, what the market needs are actors like Alimento or OCAPIAT; or actors in the field like Ino-VR who are going to evangelise the use of VR in companies“, explains Reda Ezzaim, Sales Manager for HTC in France.

Julien Masse, CEO of Ino-VR, is convinced that companies that have already made the leap to digitalisation should communicate on their choice. “To accelerate the awareness of companies about the added value of VR, the important thing is to hear about it“. And that is also the aim of the Laval Virtual Days: to evangelise on the uses of virtual reality in various sectors. The next meeting is scheduled for December 8, for a half-day on the theme of health.

About author

Content editor at Laval Virtual. Obsessed with adverbs and punctuation, synonyms and keywords are my daily guides. I hunt innovative use cases about VR/AR and immersive tech.
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