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We strongly welcome the launch of the independent National Food Strategy today. This bold initiative analyses the raft of challenges facing our food system and proposes a collection of achievable recommendations that address these pressing challenges. Of particular interest to us is recommendation 12: Create a National Food System Data programme.

Over the last few years the Internet of Food Things Network Plus led by the University of Lincoln has brought together a vibrant network of researchers and food business innovators who have been looking at many of these challenges and opportunities. The cross-cutting theme that unifies many of the proposed actions is the need to securely and purposefully share and exchange data. Doing so is foundational to the application of digital solutions. To this end, we have also completed a collaborative project with the Food Standards Agency to develop a plan for a Trust Framework for data sharing in the food system. The Law firm Pinsent Masons also contributed their experience and expertise in this area to define the legal underpinnings of the Trust Framework.

A Trust Framework for the food system would provide a solid foundation to enable the secure and permissioned exchange of data between independent collaborating organisations in the food system. These could include businesses such as food producers, supermarkets, hauliers and others, as well as regulators such as the Food Standards Agency. The motivations for investigating how to better orchestrate the sharing of food system data included: reducing waste, improving healthy eating, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the ability to reuse data such as food checks, and to increase resilience in the food system.

Delivering and maintaining a Trust Framework for data sharing would require a governance system that included a forum for representative stakeholders to provide oversight of a delivery team, potentially in the form of a separate legal entity, that set and monitored the core protocols necessary to enable interoperability between the independent services that make up the food system.

The Trust Framework itself does not collect data, rather it enables the orchestration of data exchanges between consenting parties. Furthermore, these secure transactions can be configured such that trusted third parties may derive secondary insight that can be of benefit to the parties, for example the optimisation of freight traffic, or else address the kind of societal benefit opportunities described in recommendation 12 that can be enabled through a “layered” permissions model.

We are now beginning the process of taking forward these ideas and building a community of stakeholders who will benefit from and are willing to support a Trust Framework for data sharing in the food system. In addition to linking to similar initiatives in other countries notably The Netherlands, we are also collaborating in other UK projects to better understand the pressing needs of all stakeholders in this critical infrastructure for the Country.

Further details on the Food Data Trust approach can be found in the two documents hosted here on the Food Standards Agency website:

Food Data Trust: A framework for information sharing: FSA website

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