In search of the perfect pizza

Sure, it’s just dough, sauce and cheese, but how do you train a machine to recognise the right quantities?

05 August 2022

There’s the pleasant beery smell of baked dough as thousands of pizza bases stream past me on the production line. These will become Dr Oetker frozen pizzas in a couple of minutes, and they’re being made in a factory in Selby, a light industrial area to the south of the Johannesburg CBD. Each base, now partially baked, will get squirted with tomato sauce and then pass under a waterfall of cheese before being baked again, and then cryogenically chilled to -80C. At certain points on the line, there are cameras in CCTV housings, staring straight down at the pizzas. On a big screen nearby, one sees this top-down view, but now each pizza has been enclosed in a wireframe box and they’re being rated at each stage of production; is there enough sauce and cheese on every single pie, and is there a good spread of toppings?

A Johannesburg company called Helm is working with Dr Oetker to create the perfect pie using machine learning and AI, and this solution is also due to be rolled out in the Dr Oetker factory in Poland in the coming months.

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