Digital Technologies for Food Safety Decision Support (FoodDecide)

Project description:

The aim of the research project is to develop software solutions for data-driven decision-making in Montenegrin food companies and government agencies, which on the one hand increase food safety and on the other hand accelerate investigations in case of a foodborne disease outbreak. The new software tools to be developed will also be available as open source software to German or European stakeholders. To this end, the project builds on research conducted by the BfR and the KLU, which have already developed initial open source software solutions as well as algorithms and models of food supply chains. In the FoodDecide project, the German project partners BfR and KLU together with the Montenegrin partner University of Donja Gorica (UDG) can further develop the already existing software technologies, algorithms and information exchange concepts in such a way that they are adapted to Montenegrin needs and can be tested in Montenegrin practice. In this way, the FoodDecide project also supports the existing open-source software projects such as PMM-Lab and FSK-Lab. In addition, efficient data exchange protocols will be established, if needed, to allow a connection between existing IT or laboratory systems and the new user-friendly decision support software tools to be developed. Exploitation of the results.

The digital innovations generated (software tools, algorithms) form the basis for a possible spin-off of an IT start-up from the UDG Centre of Excellence “Food Hub”. In a first step, such a spin-off would address Montenegrin food entrepreneurs and government agencies as customers. In a second phase, however, the developed software solutions could also be marketed to German or European stakeholders (especially trading companies and food producers), for whom the successful piloting in Montenegro would serve as an important proof of concept. In addition, BfR could integrate part of the solutions into its portfolio of open-source software resources and support long-term maintenance and development. The PhD students and research assistants employed in the project will publish their scientific research results as “gold” open-access articles in peer-reviewed journals.

The proposed international cooperation will therefore contribute to the further integration of UDG (and its partners) into the European Research Area (ERA) and thus to the prevention of a continued brain drain from Montenegro. With the acquired know-how, the UDG will also gain new opportunities to actively participate in upcoming European R&D project consortia.

This project builds on extensive research by BfR and KLU in the field of foodborne outbreaks, mathematical modelling and software development. The key question for this project is: “How can food business operators or government agencies efficiently identify a contaminated food product or food batch causing a disease outbreak using data on their own or macro supply chains?” Even with the inclusion of recent research, there are still some research questions that need to be addressed. These research results can then be integrated into the development of prototype decision support software tools that can be tested by end users and later commercialised.

Under the leadership of KLU, BfR will contribute to improving the predictive accuracy of available data mining algorithms that identify “contaminated” food categories at an early stage of a foodborne disease outbreak investigation. Here, national macro-economic models of supply chains will be used and compared with the observed spatial distribution pattern of case reports. The planned research also addresses optimising the efficiency and scalability of computing resources. The project partner UDG, with support from BfR, will investigate how food business operators can use their own food logistics and laboratory data to conduct their own assessments and support their own and governmental decision-making. The availability of such logistics and laboratory data from UDG’s established collaborative network linking food entrepreneurs and government agencies is a unique opportunity for this type of research. The research work of KLU and BfR also addresses the question of how noisy or missing supply chain data can be used or compensated for through the use of innovative data analysis technologies. Finally, a significant part of the available resources of the UDG and the BfR is devoted to the development of intuitive, user-friendly decision support software that hides the computational and algorithmic complexity from end users and instead enables intuitive visualisations of food networks.

Such solutions are particularly helpful in assisting end users to make decisions based on secure data in crisis situations. The BfR also coordinates the project, organises project-related communication activities (incl. involvement of the project advisory board) and leads the development of the required data standards and the knowledge database.

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