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Three Pilot Projects Launched to Showcase Cutting Edge Agri-Food Research in the UK

The Internet of Food Things Network Plus has funded three pilot projects designed to drive Internet of Things innovation in agri-food production.

A total of £150,000 has been awarded to the University of Aberdeen, the University of Stirling and the University of Nottingham for projects related to Internet of Things (IoT) technologies in the agri-food industry. The projects will last for six months and preliminary findings will be presented at the Internet of Food Things Network Plus Conference in September.

Professor Simon Pearson, Director of the Lincoln Institute for Agri-Food Technology at the University of Lincoln, said: “Food production is a significant and critical sector. These three diverse projects take forward the vision of the network to harness the benefits of cross-cutting research for the benefit of the UK’s agri-food industries.”

The University of Aberdeen was successful in their application for funding with their project “PROoFD IT!: Provenance of Food Delivery through IoT” which will explore the potential of IoT devices to enhance food safety in B2B and B2C food delivery contexts.

Principal Investigator Professor Peter Edwards said: “IoT technologies have real potential to transform the food industry; but we need to be careful about what data we collect, how we represent it, and where we store it in order to maximise its potential. In this pilot project, we are bringing together bleeding edge technologies for IoT sensing, semantic data representation and blockchain business networks to explore future possibilities for safer and trusted food deliveries.”

The University of Stirling was also successful with their project “Use of sensors to improve pig productivity” which will seek to identify ways in which data can be used to enhance efficient and sustainable pig farming.

Principal Investigator Professor Rachel Norman, Chair in Food Security and Sustainability at the University of Stirling, said: "The University of Stirling is delighted to be involved in this project, which provides us with the opportunity to use data science to gain an invaluable insight into pig productivity. Ultimately, it will allow us to explore how we can transform this data - currently used purely as a monitoring tool - into a management tool."

The University of Nottingham was also chosen to receive funding for their project “IoT enhanced Factory Cleaning” which will investigate how data and IoT technologies can be used to detect the presence of allergens and enhance the cleaning of food factories

Principal Investigator Dr Nicholas Watson stated “The IoFT feasibility project will enable the University of Nottingham to investigate some of the opportunities and challenges of using data, machine learning and other digital manufacturing technologies in the critical area of food and drink factory cleaning. We will be working closely with manufacturers ranging from SME to multinational to discover the role these technologies will play in future cleaning operations.”

The three pilot projects will be presenting their preliminary findings at the Internet of Food Things Network Plus Conference in September in Lincoln which is being held from the 17th to the 19th of September. Topics will include data trusts, digital technologies and new economic models for the digitalised food production supply chain. The next funding call for up to £50,000 per project will also be announced. For registration and further details please visit www.foodchain.ac.uk/ioft-conference-2019.

 

Graphical capture from: Digital technologies for improving productivity in food manufacturing. A joint event from The Internet of Food Things Network Plus and the Centre for SMART. Held at Loughborough University London on 2nd April, 2019

The Centre for SMART at Loughborough University collaborated with the Internet of Food Things Network Plus to host an event that targeted players in the food manufacturing industry, as well as policy makers, and aimed to provide attendees with the opportunity to learn from companies and technology providers on best practices to successfully implement current digital technologies in food manufacturing and to discuss policy and regulatory challenges to the uptake of such technologies within the UK Food Sector.

A full report will be available later, but this drawing was produced by Becky James from Natalka Design who was commissioned to capture the complexity of the presentations and discussions that took place at the event.

We therefore acknowledge the contribution that all attendees at the event made to this illustration.

The 2019 Conference registration is now open.

Further information on the event is available

The Internet of Food Things Network Plus has been established by EPSRC to champion interdisciplinary research into the technologies and business models that will enable the digitalisation of the food production supply chain. This conference brings together the people and ideas that have been part of the first phase of the project. Please do join us to learn more about these activities and we hope join us for the journey ahead.

We are pleased to announce the launch of the 2019 pilot projects funding call. The deadline for applications is 15 February 2019.

The Internet of Food Things Network Plus was set up by EPSRC to stimulate and coordinate inter-disciplinary research into the digital transformation of the food production and supply chain through the application of new technologies such as IoT, AI, smart packaging, blockchain, new business models, and other forms of innovation. A key instrument in achieving this is our pilot projects funding calls.

The application form is available on the website: Application Form.

However, please ready the guidance notes carefully first. Individual projects can request up to £40,000 total funding (total spend up to £50,000 as per FEC 80% funding).

The priority areas for applications are as follows:

  1. New business models, applications of new technologies (including internet of things
    (IoT), distributed ledger technology (DLT)), to underpin traceability and optimal
    transfer flows throughout the food chain. This could include regulations, standards,
    cyber/physical security and other aspects of resilience.
  2. Wide scale application of the internet of things (IoT) for the service community, for
    example, the secure deployment and use of IoT by commercial and domestic users
    (refrigerators, cooking devices, etc) to improve efficiency and reduce health hazards
    or waste.
  3. The development of new digital labelling and packaging protocols that assist with
    consumer understanding and use of food, as well as the management of the supply
    chain.
  4. The use of novel digital technologies (e.g. machine learning, artificial intelligence and
    vision) to reduce food waste by optimising whole supply chains from producer to
    consumer.

Key dates

  • Deadline for applications 15th February 2019 (Forms should be submitted by e-mail to the admin team at jduarte@lincoln.ac.uk)
  • Successful applicants will be notified by 8th March 2019
  • Successful projects starting by 1st May subject to contracts.
  • Projects to present their projects at the IoFT Conference in Lincoln in September 2019
  • Completion should be by 1st November.

Contacts

For further information on the Internet of Food Things Network Plus visit: http://www.foodchain.ac.uk
Please contact the IoFT Network+ administrator (jduarte@lincoln.ac.uk) with any queries.

On Wednesday night (23 November, 2018) I attended a great event organised by the University of Southampton at Southampton General Hospital, 'Fake Food!' Question Time. The idea was to bring together a collection of experts on various aspects of food and health and invite groups of local Sixth Formers to grill them in the style of the familiar Question Time format. The event is part of a large ongoing project in Southampton to look at the effects of food on all stages of our lives. The concept was great, and very well executed.

Overall, this was a fascinating discussions on the back of some great questions from the young people. I liked the comment on a separate thread: what are universities for, what do young people want? (There is a separate question to be asked about how universities adapt and change to needs and opportunities.)

Monitoring Twitter hashtag #barf enables FSA to spot outbreaks of Norovirus and other illness incidents. This can lead to insights significantly earlier than formal disease monitoring channels.

There was a discussion about how communicating food health matters to young people was effective as they then talk to their parents and grandparents as they genuinely care about their health.

We heard how various projects related to growing food cause young people to engage with food, eat new things (tomatoes) and reappraise their food choices.

We heard from Nathan who, as a head teacher, had set up a market stall at his school gate - not so much to distribute food, but rather to use food as a medium of communication.

There was a really good question on whether hospitals should judge people who are not taking advice on healthy eating? Not really possible, there are all sorts of reasons such as psychological trauma or antidepressants that can affect weight for example. There is also a difference of context between elective surgery where patients who have not prepared would not see any significant benefit from the procedure, and emergency operations which are undertaken non-judgementally.

Are meat eaters destroying the earth? Complex question…
We need to harness our collective intellect to address this challenge. So encouraging more people to eat less meat is more impactful than persuading a few to become vegans. Although such a political response doesn't necessarily answer the question.

Another pragmatic response to this question was that "you can look through a lens to find an answer that you want." Eg. it depends whether the animals are on land that could otherwise be used to grow crops that we could eat or on otherwise un-farmable land.

However, “we don’t need to eat as much meat as we do.”

Lean red meat often coupled, wrongly, with processed meat which has serious effects
Often girls who weren’t eating a lot of red meat in the first place- and end up becoming anaemic.

A vegan student commented - "people are trying to get money out me." There was a discussion around the idea that people have to learn that the system does not exist to help or look after people, people have to learn to make decisions to look after themselves. Although this could include fighting back against the system.

We were reminded that two portions of fish a week are recommended, and that one of these should be oily fish. A quick show of hands indicated that a reasonable percentage of attendees claimed to follow this advice.

It was agreed that there is much focus on body image - especially when talking about food.

Orthorexia (the term for a condition that includes symptoms of obsessive behaviour in pursuit of a healthy diet) was discussed. Clean eating, fortunately, is now debunked. Orthorexia refers to an unhealthy obsession with eating “pure” food.

At a population level we need to loose weight, but we are all different.
Everyone has a different ability to carry weight.

We do have lots of data now: (https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN03336)
Older people are loosing weight, but also nutrition.

Size has different connotations in different parts of the world.

GP are obsessed with measuring things - but athlete Lynford Christie was technically obese in terms of his body weight. The panel were asked where to look for information: Patient.info (GPs for GPs), Food.Gov.uk, public health England were suggested. Popular tabloid newspapers are best avoided.

The final question was great, to each of the panel members - what was the last thing you ate?

  • Sarah - I eat once a day - today, fruit and a punnet tomatoes
  • Nathan - a sandwich - a small fraction of the price went to a charity
  • Mark - cake (there was a lot of cake on offer before the event)
  • Giles - a falafel bowl, purple rice
  • Sian - some cheese
  • Guy - a wrap - sun-dried tomatoes,  with chicken (bought in a hurry in the station)

To be fair to the panellists, most of them had done some heavy travelling to be with us, and many had a long journey home to follow.

Overall, some fascinating and relevant insight for the Internet of Food Things Network Plus. There are huge issues surrounding food consumption and health, and the ways of addressing these issues are also complex. Data has the potential to play a part in this, especially when combined with behavioural insight and other approaches to understanding and communicating with data.

The panel comprised:

  • Nathan Atkinson, Creator of Fuel for Schools; Headteacher
  • Dr Sarah Jarvis MBE, GP, Clin Dir @patient, Resident doctor BBC R2 @theJeremyVine
  • Prof Mark Hanson, Scientist & developmental health advocate, IDS director
  • Prof Guy Poppy, Chief Sci Adviser to Food Standards Agency, Ecologist
  • Prof Sian Robinson, Nutritional Epidemiologist; Registered nutritionist
  • Dr Giles Yeo, Appetite and obesity scientist, author & broadcaster

Steve Brewer, IoFT Network Coordinator