Waving our phone over food items we place in our basket that contain a scannable code will unveil a wealth of information about each item from its origins, production, ingredients and how to best recycle to allergy guidance and even recipes.
North East-based Label Says Ltd has created the edible printed ink code that can be added directly onto all types of food such as fish, fruit, vegetables, baked goods, drinks and meat. The information is accessible when each product is scanned by the app, providing a fully augmented reality experience, allowing customers to learn more about the product they’re buying and significantly reducing food packaging.
North East entrepreneur Peter Woods is the brainchild behind the innovative code, which has been developed in collaboration with the University of Sunderland, and supported by funding through the GX project, a two-year business innovation programme part of the legacy from last year’s Great Exhibition of the North. It is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and delivered by NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI), in partnership with the Innovation SuperNetwork.
One of the key strands is Collaborate – a research and development scheme, brokering research partnerships worth up to £11,000 each between SMEs and research institutions, so they can work together on innovative projects.
Sunderland graduates Daniel Almond and Dominic Hutchinson, alongside Associate Professor Derek Watson, who has a wide expertise in the food sector with a particular knowledge of quality standards, have all helped Peter design and develop his unique application, which will provide codes for the food industry from farmers to supermarkets.
Peter Woods said: “I am delighted to be working with the University of Sunderland, it’s a great collaboration between a start-up SME and the university and I have really been impressed by the quality of support I have been given.
“The way we buy our food will drastically change in the coming years. Climate change, as well as the demand from customers, is driving supermarkets and other food providers to drastically reduce their packaging. The application we have developed enables customers to get the relevant information they need about nutrition, sourcing allergies and how to dispose of any waste, without the need for excessive packing. Ultimately it is better for the customer, the food supplier and our planet.”
The collaboration between Peter and the University has ensured the product meets the food quality standards framework, is environmentally friendly and creates potential for future company growth and employment.
Associate Professor Watson, Leader for Innovation and Technology Transfer and Academic Industry collaboration, said: “Working with Label Says Ltd is a clear demonstration of how our University co-collaborates effectively with external partners.
“The project hinged on two very talented students working in the area of augmented reality, and we were exceptionally lucky to have Daniel and Dominic who have proved themselves in the commercial arena.
“We all worked as a team and have grown from this project, there was a great synergy felt by all from our group dynamic. We are now at a stage where we can pitch the product to the food industry.”
Dominic, 22, from Sunderland, who graduated in July with a degree in Games Development helped design the software behind the app.
He explained: “My final-year dissertation was based around augmented reality and gamified software, so this project fitted perfectly with what I’d been learning during my degree. It’s been a fantastic opportunity and hopefully enhanced my future prospects.”
Daniel, 21, also from Sunderland, who graduated from Animation and Games Art, added: “My university course made working in this area so much easier and demonstrates how far we have come. It’s been fantastic working on the project with such driven colleagues.”
Carol Bell, director of Major Events and Festivals at NewcastleGateshead Initiative, added: “Innovation is key to the success of any business and Peter has worked closely with both academics and graduates at the University of Sunderland to create this groundbreaking product.
“Great Exhibition of the North provided an excellent opportunity to create an innovative business support programme and through GX Collaborate we aim to help SMEs access the best academic expertise, leading edge research and technology to solve business problems through innovation, and ultimately to accelerate the growth of their businesses. The Label Says Ltd project is a great example of this in action and highlights the many benefits of collaboration.”
Label Says UK is now in the process of being patented and Peter is in talks with a number of British food producers and retailers interested in the technology. For more information on the application and to contact Peter, go to www.labelsays.com
Peter and his team recently unveiled their technology to a group of world leading experts on food safety at the University of Sunderland for the North East’s first International Food Safety Culture Conference.
Aimed at professionals and academics working in the industry, more than 60 delegates from sole traders to multi-national businesses, attended the one-day event, which provided in-depth knowledge, theories, values and beliefs that impact on food safety culture within an organisation, helping to drive up standards across the industry.