UK – A group of eleven UK companies has been awarded funding by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), a government project that addresses the big societal challenges being faced by UK businesses, for their project Secure Quality Assured Logistics for Digital Food Ecosystems ( SecQuAL), designed to bring technology to the fore in the farm-to-fork ecosystem.

 The project will initially focus on the application of smart labels in pork production, in order to reduce food waste and increase consumer confidence in the food they purchase. Smart labels are unique digital IDs which can be attached to food, allowing it to be traced, tracked and monitored in real-time.

The award is part of ‘Made Smarter Innovation’ delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the national funding agency investing in science and research in the UK.

Commenting on the launch of SecQuAL, Stuart Kelly, Sales Director, Business Assurance, Lloyd’s Register said it was unthinkable that the assurance of food will operate within current technological constraints in 10 years’ time.

“Concerns about food safety, provenance and waste, combined with expectations of low food prices, mean that supply chains will have to become smarter and more efficient. With our established expertise in the food sector and with the visibility that LR has right across the supply chain, we are in a unique position to help the food industry take this step,” he said.

SecQuAL will enable a new breed of high growth UK based innovators to develop critical and integrated technologies which support the increasing digitalization and provenance transparency of food supply chains through the benefits of blockchain technologies. They will work alongside the established supply chain which is grappling with the added challenges and opportunities of post-Brexit international trade and the current pandemic.

The technology can be applied to provide information on food provenance, monitor cold chain conditions, more accurately predict shelf-life and even enable direct feedback from consumers to producers. Smart labelling can also identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies in supply chains, as well as allowing for remote regulatory oversight and compliance.

Consisting of 11 organizations, the SecQuAL consortium brings together experts across technology, software and systems, food production and supply chain regulation and assurance with the aim to digitally enable the food ecosystem, in order to improve food safety, reduce waste and strengthen consumer confidence in the food they purchase and consume.

Clive Stephens, Head of Research and Development at leading food producer, Cranswick PLC, said the company’s vision is to be the world’s most sustainable meat business through its Second Nature sustainability programme.

“To achieve this goal, we need to adopt new technology and operating processes at every stage of our business, from farm to fork. We are excited to join the SecQuAL programme to improve traceability throughout the supply chain; reduce waste, especially once products leave our sites, and to utilize a tool to directly engage and educate consumers about the provenance and quality of the products they are purchasing,” he highlighted.

General Manager Global Distribution Sector & Global Managing Director Consumer Industries, IBM, Luq Niazi, noted that trust, sustainability, authenticity and transparency are the values currently entrenched in the social contract between consumers, retailers and food producers adding that SecQuAL brings together the key players needed to improve trust across the full supply chain – from farm to fork.

Niazi vocalized that there is also opportunity to reduce waste and have a lasting impact on the use of the earth’s resources.

“Having such a high-quality group of members in the consortium means many of the bases are covered in the UK bringing a unique synergy of knowledge, technology and experience to make a difference for the food value chain,” he stated.