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The National Food Strategy recognised that “digital technology” has the power to transform the food system for the public good, for instance by creating a safer food environment (improved track and trace), driving the food system to net zero (enabled consumer choice of low carbon cost food), reducing food poverty (high productivity food systems) or reducing food waste (matching food supply to demand).

However, the full potential of a "digital food system” can only be realised if permissioned data can flow across complex supply chains and between multiple commercial (farms to retailers) and regulatory actors (FSA, HMRC).  Governing this exchange of data whilst enabling a public good as well as protecting commercial and personal interests remains one of the key challenges across the digital economy.

Our proposed solution are ‘data trust frameworks”, now published in Nature Food http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s43016-021-00346-1. Our solution realises that technology alone is unlikely to transform the food system, transformation requires new modalities of data governance and trusted collaboration.

The article builds on the interdisciplinary work of the EPSRC-funded Internet of Food Things Network Plus and a collaborative project with law firm Pinsent Masons that was funded by the Food Standards Agency.

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

https://www.food.gov.uk/research/research-projects/food-data-trust-a-framework-for-information-sharing

To get in touch please contact us via: info.foodchain@lincoln.ac.uk

PROoFD IT!: Provenance of Food Delivery through IoT

By Naomi Jacobs
The PROOFD-IT project is about using technology to help track the food delivery process and monitor important information (such as temperature) at every stage. We want to design new systems which make use of the Internet of Things to do this, but we want to make sure we are meeting actual existing needs rather than jumping in and making assumptions about what might help. For that reason, the first step for us is to understand how food delivery works right now, and what currently happens between the production of food and its delivery to the customer. With that in mind, the first thing we set out to do was visit our three business partners and shadow the entire ordering and delivery process to understand more about it.
Spending time with our partners meant seeing ‘behind the scenes’ of food production, including aspects that often might be taken for granted. We got to see giant freezers, followed the route that ingredients take through kitchen preparation to become finished products, and joined delivery drivers on their routes around Aberdeen. In this way, we can build up a complete picture and see where there are opportunities for technology to help; for example certain points in the current system where temperature readings are taken and written down on paper for record-keeping.
Having an interdisciplinary team working on the project means that we can use these observational research methods to gain insight and understanding into how things work in the real world, before using technical skills to design new solutions. By working together in this way we can create and test new systems that bring new opportunities and will improve food safety and build customer trust. Once we’ve finalised our user journeys, and used them to design our new systems, the next step will be to test them out in the real world with our partners!

Pilot project: use of sensors to improve pig productivity

By Rachel Norman and Jason Adair

We were delighted to receive funding from the Internet of Food things Network which allows us to apply statistical and machine learning methods to sensor datfrom a pig farm. We are based in the Computing Science and Mathematics Department (CS&M) at the University of Stirling

(https://www.stir.ac.uk/about/faculties/natural-sciences/our-research/computing-science-and-mathematics-research/) . Within Stirling we have Rachel Norman (@AFSRachel https://www.stir.ac.uk/people/255946) who is Professor of Food Security and Sustainability, Richard Connor (https://www.stir.ac.uk/people/939088) who is Professor of Computing Science and our postdoc Jason Adair (https://www.stir.ac.uk/people/256928) . We are working with collaborators at the Agricultural Engineering Precision Innovation Centre (Agri-EPI Centre) in Edinburgh (https://www.agri-epicentre.com/) and the Scottish Pig Producers association (http://www.scottishpigs.coop/).

Whilst much of the research in CS&M is interdisciplinary in nature, this is the first time we have worked with the pig sector, and so this project gives us an excellent opportunity to learn more about this production system. We started out with a meeting at the Agri-Epi centre in which we discussed all of the types and sources of data available at one of their satellite pig farms. This ranges from high tech data from state-of-the-art 3D cameras which estimate pig weight, to handwritten bits of paper which record the average batch weights at two points in their growth cycle. It also includes environmental data from sensors in the sheds which record temperature, humidity and ammonia levels; data on what and how much they eat each day; abattoir data on the weight and quality of each of the 180 carcasses produced each week, and data from the farm’s very own weather station. This meeting was followed quickly by a _very_ early morning run up to the farm to see what the data looked like in the flesh.

Rachel and pig
Rachel meeting one of the farm’s youngest residents

It was great to have the opportunity to ask lots of questions about how data is currently used on the farm, and what we could do to help. So, although it is early days, we are looking forward to collating the data from different sources and trying to decide whether the sensors could be used as a management as well as a monitoring tool. It’s early days but it certainly won’t be boaring!

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.