A GRANT of more than £40,000 has been awarded to a York tech firm to help it develop automated systems for the food industry.

BakePlan Software, based in King Street, is receiving £43,600 from the UK’s innovation agency Innovate UK as part of its Emerging and Enabling Technologies programme, which is match funding investment made by the company.

The grant will be invested in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to develop a new system that can see food products, count them and record data about them.

BakePlan Software specialises in demand-forecasting software that advises supermarket bakers and other in-store food production staff on the right products to make at the best times of the day in a bid to improve product availability, freshness and reduce waste.

M&S, which uses BakePlan forecasting throughout its UK and Eire stores, wants to cut its food waste by 50 per cent by 2025 as part of its Plan A 2025 sustainability programme. Elsewhere Britain’s leading grocery retailers have all pledged to cut their food waste by 20 per cent in an agreement known as the Courtauld Commitment

BakePlan Software’s project aims to eliminate the manual data inputting needed by food retail staff to control waste. The new AI-based system will also use speech recognition technology to interact with store staff.

Jane Tyler, managing director of BakePlan Software, said: “This award from Innovate UK will enable us to take our concept from the drawing board to reality. We will do this by mixing machine learning, autonomous imaging, speech recognition and mobile/cloud internet data delivery.”

Ms Tyler, who is also the vice chairwoman of the British Society of Baking industry organisation, added: “BakePlan’s goal is to gain market penetration across the supermarket, food-to-go and convenience store sectors in the UK and to export to European and global markets.

“As well as boosting our export opportunities, Innovate UK’s grant will help us to grow our company and our skillset.”

York Central MP Rachael Maskell praised the company for its response to the “massive issue” surrounding food waste in the UK, stating: “It is good to know that a local York firm has come up with solutions that can support small baking businesses through to large supermarket chains in the UK and overseas.

“I hope companies like BakePlan Software will inspire young people to consider a career in the tech sector to provide solutions to the challenges facing us all.”