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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/K012126/1
Title: Creating trust through digital traceability: sustainable food chains and new ways to connect producers and consumers.
Principal Investigator: Holloway, Professor L
Other Investigators:
Eden, Professor SE Speed, Professor C Grey, Dr DJ
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
DEFRA East Riding of Yorkshire Council EBLEX
Red Tractor Assurance Yorkshire Agricultural Society
Department: Geography, Environment and Earth Science
Organisation: University of Hull
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 02 April 2013 Ends: 31 May 2015 Value (£): 196,205
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Design Processes Economics
Human Geography Human-Computer Interactions
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Food and Drink
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
07 Sep 2012 EPSRC : Research in the Wild Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Digital tools have the potential to address key challenges to make food and farming in Britain more sustainable, but only if they are quick, cheap, easy and specific to users' needs.

A shopper is wondering what to buy for Sunday dinner but concerned about where their food comes from. Can they trust what it says on the label? Was that meat reared locally and ethically? What chemicals were used to grow those potatoes? Can buying them support small businesses in the region and also ensure a healthy, nutritious meal for their family? To find out, they scan the product's QR code with their smartphone to access free, clear information, including perhaps a map or webcam link to the farm where it was produced.

A farmer at a cattle auction is wondering which bull to buy as part of expanding their herd. Can they trust what they see - is the animal as healthy as it looks? Which bloodlines will be most productive? Can they be sure that the animals have been well cared for and not exposed to damaging diseases? They scan the ear-tag of the animal for sale and access data about its pedigree, genetics, health and previous movements across the country.

In these situations and many others, digital technologies can promote more sustainable production and consumption through reconnecting consumers and producers, but we need to know more about how best to involve diverse users, what information they need and in what form and how to promote new technologies in the face of information overload and increasing public distrust. What stories should food be able to tell us and how can these stories be told digitally?

This project will create and test digital tools to link food consumption and production through the traceability of specific products and animals. These tools have one important thing in common: specificity. By scanning QR codes or RFID ear-tags, consumers and farmers gain more than the simple provision of generic information on websites - they can access an 'Internet of Things', where physical objects (products, animals) are embedded with digital technologies and interlinked by flexible networks of information for diverse purposes. The project will use in-depth, qualitative social science field research techniques to engage users and secure their input through live testing 'in the wild' (online, on-farm and in-shop). It will evaluate how digital technologies can forge new and improve existing relationships between farmers and shoppers. The research will address questions such as :

1. How effective can digital technologies be for the food and farming sectors and for consumer-producer reconnection?

2. How can the capabilities and accessibility of existing technologies be developed and enhanced to exploit the potential for reconnection and information exchange?

3. How can digital technologies support farm and food business sustainability, consumers' quality of life, sustainable consumption practices and a sustainable future countryside?

The researchers will work with a set of food chain and rural development project partners. They will have continuous input into the research process and benefit from its findings. Partners are: Defra; English Beef and Lamb Executive; Red Tractor Assurance; Yorkshire Agricultural Society's Food, Farming and Rural Network; a Local Action Group of the EU LEADER rural development programme, and the Economic Development Department of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

The research will generate impact by making extensive use of the project partners' networks to disseminate and discuss research findings; by making findings available through the farming and food trade press; by the extensive involvement of user groups in the research and by conducting research in the field at agricultural shows and food festivals. The project will develop and trial apps relevant to the user groups involved, testing these both live online and live 'in the wild', in fields with farmers and shops with consumers.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
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Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.hull.ac.uk