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Norfolk Business Awards 2018

How ‘smart’ could your kitchen be? UEA researchers are trying to find out

UEA researchers are working on a project to increase the use of digital technologies in agriculture and food - including in our kitchens. Picture: Andrey Popov/Getty Images/iStockphoto

UEA researchers are working on a project to increase the use of digital technologies in agriculture and food - including in our kitchens. Picture: Andrey Popov/Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Would you like a fridge which orders your groceries for you or cooking appliances which help you prepare food more healthily?

This futuristic vision could become a reality in a project involving University of East Anglia (UEA) researchers.

The project has been launched to examine how the Internet of Things (IoT) could transform the food industry through innovations such as “smart” cooking appliances and enhanced systems of food traceability.

The Internet of Food Things (IoFT) Network Plus will bring together data and computer scientists, chemists and economists to investigate how artificial intelligence, data analytics and emerging technologies can further digitise the UK food supply chain.

As well as examining the potential for “smart” appliances – such as refrigerators which can trigger a grocery order when items are running low or know when products are out of date – the project will look at how machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) could be used to collate data from across the food supply chain to reduce food waste.

Businesses and researchers around the UK will be able to participate in workshops, run conferences and bid for funding for pilot studies, projects, and reviews. These initiatives will run until May 2021.

Prof Gerard Parr, head of the School of Computing Sciences at UEA, said the food and agri-tech sectors were “increasingly reliant” on sensor, internet and communications technologies.

He said: “The East of England has some of the most hyper-connected smart farms in Europe so we are not starting from scratch.

“This region is ripe for innovation and we are in a fantastic place to take forward these opportunities to look at new digital technologies and make sure that they are fit for purpose.

“We are looking at where technology can improve decision-making for the consumer then rolling that right back to the production lines and to the farms.

“In a post-Brexit scenario we are seeing opportunities for new innovations and new markets.”

The network is led by the University of Lincoln with partners including UEA, Open University and the universities of Southampton and Surrey. The project is funded by a £1.14m grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

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