Just over two years in the making, the project was awarded £4m by Innovate UK to develop a system that utilises advance Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain and artificial intelligence technology to enhance the level of traceability of ingredients in the production of commercial, pre-package sandwiches.
Tom Hollands, Innovation and Technical director at Raynor Foods, said: “We are delighted to be able to utilise this cutting-edge technology to further improve the way that we procure and monitor ingredients, manufacture sandwiches and deliver excellence for consumers and customers.
“This is a ground-breaking and highly disruptive innovation that has created the foundations for a whole new virtual industry with the potential to transform not only the food industry but any manufacturing sector. We are excited to be able to use this technology within our own business, and to see how it will transform other businesses and industries in the future.”
Consortium behind the Digital Sandwich
A consortium of organisations behind the platform includes IMS Evolve, Raynor Foods, University of Lincoln, University of Exeter, Digital Catapult, Sweetbridge, Inc., Crosspay, NetFoundry, INDUSTRIA Technology and R3 as well as supporting partners Kinesis Telematics Limited NESIS and Anser Coding Inc.
Following the completion of the project, the consortium will look to expand its use across the entire food supply chain, while exploring possible new use cases across other sectors – new possible sectors identified included the NHS and pharmaceuticals.
“The Digital Sandwich is the fusing of multiple innovative technologies to drive efficiencies and ultimately improve a critical sector in both the UK and worldwide economies,” said Simon Pearson, professor of Agri-Food Technology at Lincoln University.
“This platform will combine and optimise the product chain and the value chain, leveraging the use of data to make smarter decisions both economically and for the environment. We are delighted that years of hard work from the consortium have cumulated in the development of this transformative new technology that has so much promise for the food industry and beyond.”
According to the Cold Chain Federation, the UK has nearly 41 million cubic metres of cold storage – equivalent to 35 Wembley Stadiums. It also reports a 183% increase in wholesale energy costs for the cold chain sector during 2022, while it is estimated the UK generated more than 9.5 million tons of food waste in 2021.
Edward Porter, director of IoT Solutions at retail technology expert and consortium leader IMS Evolve, said: “The ability to use advanced technologies to irrefutably track ingredients in food, from primary production to retail, is going to be integral to maintaining public trust in the food system, reducing waste, and bringing one of the world’s most sophisticated supply chains into the digital age.
“We are delighted to have been involved in the Digital Sandwich project as the lead partners in a consortium that has the potential to completely digitally-transform almost any complex supply chain system. This technology is designed to be open to organisations of all sizes across the supply chain meaning that anyone can benefit from the increased connectivity, productivity, food quality and safety and reduction in waste that the platform promises to deliver.”