The Internet of Food Things


EPSRC Reference:

The Internet of Food Things

Principal Investigator:
Pearson, Professor S

Other Investigators:
Maull, Professor R
Parr, Professor G
Frey, Professor JG
Zisman, Professor A

Project Partners:
Collison & Associates Ltd
Food Standards Agency
High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult
Siemens plc (UK)

School of Computer Science

University of Lincoln

Standard Research – NR1

14 May 2018

13 May 2021

Value (£):

EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Artificial Intelligence
Information & Knowledge Mgmt
Mobile Computing

EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Information Technologies
Food and Drink

Panel Date:
26 Feb 2018

Panel Name:
DE NetworkPlus Full Proposals


The “Internet of Food Things” will create an interdisciplinary network that defragments and expands the UK’s food digital economy. Food and drink is the largest manufacturing sector of the UK economy. The food supply chain from farm to consumer generates £108bn GVA per year and employs 3.9m people. In addition, food has highly significant social and environmental impacts. Obesity alone, including downstream health impacts such as diabetes, heart disease etc, costs the UK economy £49bn per annum. There are still c. 1,000,000 cases of food poisoning per year costing £1.5bn p.a.. Food generates up to 30% of the UK’s road freight, but 10MT of food, generating 20MTCO2e of GHG emissions, are wasted each year.

Digital technology has the potential to transform the food chain, for example, opportunities (that map onto the EPSRC DE Network strategy) include but are not limited to;

  • New business models via distributed ledger technology (DLT) to underpin the traceability of food. The recent Holmes report identified food as one of the key seven UK industry sectors most likely to benefit from DLTs.
  • The creation of a “data trust” for the food sector to underpin data sharing, trust and interoperability within complex supply chains.
  • Wide scale application of the internet of things (IoT) for the service community, for example, the use of IoT by domestic users (refrigerators, cooking devices etc) to improve health outcomes and reduce waste.
  • The development of new digital labelling protocols that assist with consumer use of food as well as supply chain optimisation,
  • The use of novel digital technologies (e.g. artificial intelligence) to reduce food waste by optimising whole supply chains from manufacturer to consumer.

Hitherto these opportunities have not or are only partially realised. There is an urgent need to defragment the digitally inspired academic community and connect it to food industry practitioners.

Although the digital focus is in within EPSRC’s remitIoT, blockchain, data trusts, interoperability issues), we will multiply impact by including interdisciplinary contributions from food science and technology practitioners, policy makers, engineers, management specialists and colleagues in social and behavioural sciences. The network will include academia, industry and consumer interests. The industry interest covers the whole food and digital innovation chain including food manufacturers (e.g. Food and Drink Federation, EPSRC Food CIM), IoT and digital specialists (Siemens and IMS Evolve), the HVM Catapult and regulators such as the Food Standards Agency and GS1 the international agency that sets data standards (bar codes) for retail. Consumers will be represented through out, but the inclusion of food retailers within the consortium provides access to unrivalled data sets demonstrating behaviours.

The DE network will facilitate a number of key actions, including a marketing, social media and work shop / conference campaign that yields a large scale (up to 500 persons) network who have mutual interests within the food digital domain. We will host one main conference per year and in addition 3 facilitated workshops p.a. to deep dive key questions within the food domain. We will fund a range of pilot studies (£350K applied) and detailed reviews to underpin horizon scanning. All the research challenges will be co created with industry. We expect that the network will facilitate onward research funding and catalyse interest in the food digital economy. In addition to network activities, we will deliver a comprehensive pathway to impact that engages professional practitioners as well as the general public and schools.

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