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WATSON: the European project that promotes traceability and tackles fraud in the food sector

The main objective of the European project WATSON, with INESC TEC participation, is the development of tools and systems that contribute to prevent fraud and increase traceability in the food sector. The project brings together 44 partners from 19 countries; it will, on the one hand, provide solutions that improve the competitiveness of the different stakeholders of the production chains, and, on the other hand, raise the consumers’ awareness, promoting their confidence in what they wish to buy.

04th April 2023

Develop tools for data collection in the production chain; present flexible and affordable solutions to analyse the information’s authenticity; implement a digital ledger, using blockchain, to ensure the data’s authenticity; and create a digital passport for products – which can be used as proof/means of information. These are some of the key results that the WATSON project consortium hopes to achieve over the next three years.

The project aims to equip the different stakeholders of the production chains with tools that allow them to track products and prevent different types of fraud, e.g., violation of seals or labels, tampering with products or information regarding their origin, thus improving their levels of competitiveness. Moreover, the main objective is food safety, in the case of producers, providing them with tools that ensure the traceability and authenticity of their products, giving them credibility and, consequently, sustainability. In addition, the project also aims to improve people’s awareness and confidence in the food they consume.

Hence, WATSON covers several scientific domains, focusing on the development of several technologies: genomic and DNA analysis, Computer Vision, Internet of Things and Blockchain. INESC TEC is responsible for leading the Activity related to the development of a set of technologies that aims to increase the traceability of different products, while contributing to improve information and to prevent and tackle fraud.

“Besides leading the entire technology development activity, INESC TEC is responsible for the development of a set of flexible and low-cost tools – as far as possible – that supports the analysis and detection of different issues”, explained Pedro Carvalho, head of the project at INESC TEC. The researcher of the Centre for Telecommunications and Multimedia (CTM) also mentioned that INESC TEC will organise and implement one of the pilot cases, applied to the Portuguese market – which focuses on the traceability within the wine sector. The pilot also features the Association for the Development of Douro Viticulture (ADVID), with the support of SOGRAPE and the Port and Douro Wines Institute, I.P. (IVDP). The Centre for Telecommunications and Multimedia (CTM) and the Centre for Robotics in Industry and Intelligent Systems (CRIIS) are the INESC TEC Centres involved in the project.

WATSON – A holistic frameworkWork with Anticounterfeit and inTelligence-based technologieS that will assist food chain stakehOlders in rapidly identifying and predicting the spread of fraudulent practices – started in March 2023. The project is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon Europe programme, with a budget of more than €11M. It brings together 44 partners from 19 countries, including two countries outside the European Union, and it will end in 2026.

The researcher mentioned in this news piece is associated with INESC TEC.