What is Machine Learning?

What is behind the term “machine learning” or “machine learning” (ML)?

In simple terms, ML is an artificial intelligence field technique that involves developing algorithms that learn from experience and data without being explicitly programmed. This means that instead of following clear instructions, these algorithms can recognize patterns in the data and make predictions or decisions on their own.

There are three different types of machine learning, each with its own approaches and characteristics:

Supervised learning is a rather simple method of machine learning in which the algorithm is already trained with known data and the corresponding results.

Unsupervised learning, on the other hand, does not require predefined targets or structures for the data. This form of machine learning is significantly more complex and requires more sophisticated analysis.

The third type is Reinforcement Learning (also: Reinforcing Learning) . Here, the algorithm is independently confronted with rewards or punishments for its actions, which motivates it to develop optimal strategies to achieve the defined goals.

Machine learning offers a wide range of possibilities to meet the complex requirements and challenges in numerous application areas of the food industry: In food engineering, food safety, quality control and management or even in food technology.

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Agnes Tholen

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Functionality and application areas

The basic mechanism of machine learning is based on the concept of learning from data. In this process, an algorithm is adapted on the basis of existing training data so that it recognizes patterns and correlations in the data and stores them in a model. This model forms the basis for future predictions or classifications on new data not previously seen.

The training process

This is critical to the success of machine learning. During training, the algorithm continuously adapts by optimizing its internal parameters – also known as weights. These weights affect how the input data is processed and how the outputs are generated.

The predictions

The algorithm starts with random weights and makes predictions based on these initial settings. These predictions are then compared to the actual results of the training data. The difference between the predictions and the actual results is called the error. The goal of training is to minimize this error so that the model can make more accurate predictions.

The accuracy

By applying optimization algorithms – such as gradient descent – the weights are gradually adjusted to reduce the error. This process is performed iteratively until the model achieves acceptable accuracy on the training data.

Predictions and classifications

Once the model is well trained, it is applied to new, previously unknown data. It uses the learned patterns and relationships to make predictions or classifications. The accuracy of predictions on new data is a measure of the model’s performance .

What makes a successful ML model?

The success of machine learning depends on several factors, such as the quality and representativeness of the training data, the choice of the right algorithm, the appropriate hyperparameter settings, and the scope of the training process. A well-trained model can be extremely powerful and recognize complex patterns in data that would be difficult or even impossible for humans to detect.

Machine learning has led to amazing advances in recent years and is being used in more and more application areas to provide valuable insights and automation capabilities. It is now used in numerous areas and often significantly changes processes. Here are two examples from the food industry:

Personalization of recommendations in online grocery stores

Many online grocers offer a wide range of products to their customers. To improve the shopping experience and increase sales, they want to give their customers personalized recommendations for products that might be of interest to them.

This is where Machine Learning comes in! By collecting data about customers’ shopping habits, preferences, and previous orders, an online grocer can develop a machine learning model that analyzes each customer’s unique preferences. The model can identify patterns and relationships based on the data. For example, it may find that a customer who often buys vegetarian products may also be interested in vegan alternatives. Or it could suggest that customers who often buy organic products might also be interested in other sustainable products.

When a customer logs into the grocer’s website or app, the machine learning model is activated and creates personalized recommendations for that specific customer. On the home page or in special recommendation pages, he is then shown products based on his individual preferences and shopping behavior.

Personalized recommendations increase the likelihood that customers will find products they find interesting, and thus increase the likelihood that they will buy. This improves the shopping experience and increases customer satisfaction.

Machine learning enables grocers to efficiently process large amounts of data and generate personalized recommendations in real time. It is an example of how modern technologies can enrich online retail in the food industry and personalize the customer experience.

Quality control in food production

Food manufacturers must ensure that their products meet quality standards and are safe for consumption. This requires careful inspection of the products during the production process. Machine learning can be used here to automate and improve quality control .

By using sensors and camera systems, data about the products can be collected continuously during production. This data may include information about properties such as size, shape, color, weight and texture of the food. A machine learning model is fed with an extensive amount of training data containing information about high and low quality products. The model learns from this data which features and characteristics typically indicate high quality and which indicate low quality.

During production, the new products are continuously captured by the cameras and sensors, and the machine learning model evaluates the quality based on the learned features. If a product is classified as inferior, it can be automatically sorted out of the production process.


Other application scenarios include:

  • Voice assistants: Smart assistants such as Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant use machine learning to understand voice commands and provide intelligent responses.

  • Fraud prevention: Banks and financial institutions use machine learning to detect suspicious transactions and prevent fraud.

  • Medical diagnoses: Machine learning helps doctors analyze complex medical images and make more accurate diagnoses.

  • Autonomous vehicles: Self-driving cars use machine learning to understand the environment and navigate safely

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What is a machine learning algorithm?

A machine learning algorithm is a mathematical or statistical algorithm that allows a computer to learn from data and recognize patterns or relationships in the data without having to be explicitly programmed.

In the context of machine learning, there are different types of algorithms developed for different tasks and problems. Each of these algorithms has its strengths and weaknesses and is suitable for different types of tasks. Choosing the right algorithm depends on the data, the problem , and the machine learning goals.


Commonly used ML algorithms:

  • Classification algorithms: These algorithms are used to classify data into different classes or categories. An example of this is the k-Nearest Neighbor (k-NN) algorithm or the Support Vector Machine (SVM) algorithm.(SupervisedLearning)

  • Regression algorithms: Regression algorithms are used to predict continuous values, for example, to estimate the price of a property based on certain characteristics.(Supervised Learning)

  • Clustering algorithms: Clustering algorithms are used to group similar data points into groups (clusters) without knowing the classes in advance.(Unsupervised Learning)

  • Association rule mining algorithms: These algorithms find relationships between attributes in the data and help identify correlations in shopping behaviors, for example.(Unsupervised Learning)

  • Decision trees: Decision trees are hierarchical models that can make decisions and predictions in the form of tree structures. ( Supervised Learning )

Different types of ML

The three main categories of machine learning are:

1 – Supervised Learning (Supervised Learning)

In this method, the algorithm is presented with sample data where the desired results are already known. The algorithm is fed this training data set and learns to recognize the patterns and relationships between the input data and the associated results. In doing so, he looks for patterns and correlations that allow him to generalize these examples and apply them to new, previously unknown data. In this way, the algorithm can correctly classify future data or make predictions. A classic example of supervised learning is the classification of emails as “spam” or “not spam” based on historical email data with known labels.

An example of AI application in food production is the use of supervised learning to detect quality defects in food products by using historical production data to identify defective batches of products.

2 – Unsupervised Learning (Unsupervised Learning)

Unlike supervised learning, here there are no known outcomes or labels in the training data. The algorithm must independently search for structures and patterns in the data without knowing what groups or categories exist. It attempts to group or structure the data to identify similarities and relationships. Unsupervised learning is often used for data segmentation, clustering, or to detect anomalies in the data. A typical example is the segmentation of customer data into groups without knowing the groups beforehand.

In food production , Unsupervised Learning is used to automatically divide different types of fruits and vegetables into groups based on common features such as shape, color and size to optimize sorting and packaging.

3 – Reinforcement Learning (Reinforcement Learning)

This approach is similar to a reward system. The algorithm interacts with an environment and makes decisions to achieve a specific goal. After each action, he receives feedback in the form of rewards or penalties, depending on how good his decision was. The goal of the algorithm is to identify, through trial and error and learning, the best actions that lead to positive outcomes. Reinforcement learning is often used in robotics, autonomous vehicle control, or games. A famous example of reinforcement learning is the algorithm that mastered the game of Go and beat the world champion.

In the grocery industry , reinforcement learning could be used to optimize fresh food delivery by teaching autonomous delivery vehicles to select the most efficient routes and schedules based on traffic conditions and customer requirements.

These three main categories of machine learning offer a variety of ways to solve problems in different application areas. Choosing the right approach depends on the type of data, availability of labels , and desired outcomes .

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What does the machine learning process look like?

Would you like to delve a little deeper into the topic of Machine Learning? Then the next question to answer is: What does the machine learning process look like? This consists of several steps that all build on each other:

Data preparation: The data must be collected, cleaned and put into a format that can be processed by the algorithm.

Model selection: Depending on the nature of the problem and the type of data, an appropriate algorithm is selected.

Training the model: The model is trained with the training data to learn patterns and relationships.

Model evaluation: the performance of the model is evaluated against test data to check its accuracy and ability to generalize.

Optimization: If necessary, the model’s hyperparameters are adjusted to improve performance.

Application of the model: The well-trained model is applied to new, unknown data to make predictions or classifications.

What is the difference between Machine Learning and Deep Learning?

When talking about ML, it should be known that Machine Learning and Deep Learning are as sub-disciplines of artificial intelligence are often not clearly distinguished from each other. To make things clearer, what are the differences between Machine Learning and Deep Learning?

Machine Learning is an umbrella term for various techniques that enable computers to learn from data and recognize patterns.

Deep Learning , on the other hand, is a special form of Machine Learning based on Artificial Neural Networks. Deep Learning models are particularly good at recognizing deep hierarchies of features in data and handling complex tasks such as image recognition and natural language processing.

Listed here are the key differences between Machine Learning and Deep Learning:

1 – Model complexity

Machine learning encompasses a variety of algorithms that aim to learn from data and recognize patterns. These algorithms can be relatively simple, such as linear regression or decision trees. However, they can also become more complex (such as “Support Vector Machines” or “Random Forests”).

Deep Learning, on the other hand, as mentioned, is a special form of Machine Learning that focuses on Artificial Neural Networks. These networks consist of many layers of artificial neurons and can create highly complex models. Deep Learning models are able to recognize deep hierarchies of features in the data, which makes them particularly well suited for challenging tasks such as image recognition and natural language processing.

2 – Data volume and performance

Machine learning algorithms can already deliver good results when trained with comparatively small data sets. They are often efficient and can run on less powerful hardware platforms.

Deep Learning, on the other hand, typically requires large amounts of data to effectively train its complex models. The performance of Deep Learning models typically improves with the amount of data. In addition, Deep Learning models are more computationally intensive and require more powerful hardware, such as graphics processing units (known as GPUs), to perform the massive calculations.

3 – Feature engineering

In traditional machine learning, feature engineering is an important step. Here, relevant features are extracted from the raw data and selected to serve as input to the algorithm. A good feature engineering process can contribute significantly to the success of a machine learning model.

In Deep Learning, on the other hand, the neural network does the feature engineering on its own. It automatically learns the relevant features from the raw data without having to specify them manually in advance. This is one of the great advantages of Deep Learning, as it facilitates the process of model development.

4 – Interpretability

Machine learning models are often easier to interpret because they are based on less complex algorithms. The basis for the decision is usually comprehensible and explainable.

Deep Learning models, on the other hand, are often more difficult to interpret due to their complexity. The internal processes and decision-making bases in the deep layers of the neural network are not so easily comprehensible, which makes it difficult to interpret the results.

In summary, Deep Learning is a specialized form of machine learning based on Artificial Neural Networks that creates complex models. It requires large amounts of data and powerful hardware to achieve optimal results. Machine learning, on the other hand, encompasses a variety of algorithms that can be used in different applications and can often produce good results even with smaller data sets. Both approaches have their strengths and weaknesses and offer a wide range of possibilities for developing data-driven solutions to various problems.

Your contact person.


Agnes Tholen

Director Sales & Marketing (ppa.)

Machine Learning

  • Structured data
  • Works with simple hardware.
  • It usually takes only a few minutes to hours to complete the calculations of artificial neural networks.

Deep Learning

  • Structured and unstructured data
  • Requires powerful computers.
  • It often takes weeks or even months to perform the enormous computations of artificial neural networks.

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