Aston University partners with cheesemakers to optimise production using machine-learning and AI

Aston University and fourth-generation family cheesemakers, Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses (BFC) based in rural Lancashire, have teamed up through a Knowldge Transfer Partnership (KTP) to use high-tech solutions to increase their cheese production.

The project will develop novel business analytics and machine learning capability in order to amplify cheese production, looking at milk yields, animal feed and supply chain processes. It will collect data sets throughout the supply chain, from feeding livestock through to the cheese-making process and product consistency.

Cutting-edge technologies that are unique in the sector such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will be applied, to predict and optimise the quality and quantity of milk, helping BFC to forecast future cheese demand.

A KTP is a three-way collaboration between a business, an academic partner and a highly qualified researcher, known as a KTP associate.

The academic team from Aston University will be led by Dr Jiabin Luo, lecturer in business analytics, whose interests focus on optimisation modelling and decision-making in logistics process and supply chains in a wide range of businesses. She will be joined by Dr Ozren Despic, whose main research focus is on developing mathematical models for their use in efficiency measurement and decision making.

Academic support will also be provided by Dr Viktor Pekar and Dr Eliseo Vilalta-Perdomo. Dr Pekar’s interests focus on predictive modelling, machine learning and natural language processing. Dr Vilalta-Perdomo’s research is at the intersection of issues such as human performance, technology and sustainable operations.

Completing the team in the KTP associate position is Giwa Reagan Iziomo, who has proven expertise in data science and business analytics. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s in business analytics and brings onboard years of industry experience in process improvement, supply chain and commercial analyses.

Daniel Hall, fourth-generation owner and operations director of Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses, said:

“The British cheese renaissance we’re seeing at the moment is really exciting – more people than ever are buying into local, quality farmhouse cheesemaking and the variety of superb cheeses we have in this country.

“Our collaboration is an important lever in keeping this momentum going – with access to Aston University’s expertise in artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics, we can push the boundaries of our supply chain and processes both now and for the future.”

Dr Jiabin Luo, lecturer in business analytics at Aston Business School, says:

“The project presents an opportunity to deploy the concepts and theories resulting from our research in a real-world situation and demonstrate its high-quality impact.

“It also has a positive impact on teaching through case studies on the novel aspect of BFC’s substantial control of its own supply chain.”

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