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The Internet of Food Things Network Plus

The Internet of Food Things Network Plus has been established by EPSRC to address these challenges and opportunities, and explore how new technologies such as the Internet of Things, robotics, blockchain, and AI can contribute to addressing them. Key implementation challenges include the need for new skills and organisational structures in the workplace, and economic challenges inherent in an industry with tight margins.

Horizon scanning fieldwork

In order to achieve the above, the Network has been conducting extensive fieldwork in terms of understanding the industry's challenges, mapping current academic research related to the scope, and also exploring the policy and regulatory landscape as it stands today, and what is being contemplated for the future.

Critical infrastructure?

It can be useful in this respect to consider the food production supply chain as a critical infrastructure. Conversely, the reality is that the food chain is a highly competitive ecosystem albeit with a fairly rigorous framework of rules, regulations, and ethical standards belief systems.

Interdisciplinary approach

Teasing out our understanding of the complexities of the food production supply chain necessarily involves research of an interdisciplinary nature. Therefore one of the challenges is to understand the optimum processes and mechanisms of fostering such an approach. Based on our experiences from previous Network Plus activities, such a IT as a Utility, we will offer workshops, sandpits, conferences, and structured pilot project calls.

Digital Collaboration

One of the primary benefits of the digital economy is the possibility for digital collaboration both within and between organisations. Furthermore, such collaboration can offer mutual benefits to competing organisations as well as collaborators. Such pre-competitive ventures are not new, however the digital domain presents new opportunities and challenges around speed, data privacy and cyber security. Reports on these topics will be forthcoming later in the project timeline.

The Data Trust as a framework for sharing and access control

We anticipate that the concept of a data trust will play an important role in addressing these challenges. Such a framework should enable:

  • the identification of food safety issues
  • shared business solutions in a pre-competitive environment
  • digitally-enabled collaboration along the supply chain
  • ethical AI, personal data rights, and the coordination of data responsibilities

Looking forward

Looking forward the Network will organise events and issue calls to support and motivate the research community to work in a trans-disciplinary way to address these challenges. Potential solutions can then be evaluated and reviewed in commercial environments, and insights shared with the policy-making community.