‘Big data’ will be central to innovation in 2016

Munday: 'Agrimetrics can certainly help food manufacturers'

The way food manufacturers and growers handle ‘big data’ is expected to be one of the main industry trends of 2016, the head of a government innovation agency has claimed.

A more collaborative approach to data sharing would bring huge benefits to food safety and help combat food fraud, Helen Munday, lead technologist for sustainable agriculture and food at Innovate UK, told our sister title Food Manufacture magazine.

Munday urged manufacturers to become involved in centres for agricultural innovation, created by Innovate UK under the UK Strategy for Agricultural Technologies.

The first, at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, opened last year. The purpose-built centre, named Agrimetrics, wants to contact organisations needing data, or interested in using or supplying data, to improve the agriculture sector.

Help food manufacturers

“While Agrimetrics centres on the agricultural side of food production, it can certainly help food manufacturers to create more integrated supply chains. We’re taking an interdisciplinary approach finding a commonality that businesses may not at first see,” Munday said.

“Data is being collected across the industry all the time, but the question is how to harness it for the benefit of all,” she added.

Climate change’s significant role

Munday, a former director of food safety and science at the Food and Drink Federation, also believed climate change was going to play an increasingly significant role in UK food production over the next 12 months.

“On the one hand, more erratic weather is clearly a growing problem for food production. But on the other, we are now able to grow crops in the UK that we’ve never been able to grow before,” she said.

Launched in 2007, Innovate UK is operating name of the Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s innovation agency. It reports to the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.

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