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Catching up with STEFY: Ambitious plans for a food safety-focused innovative SME

In issue 78 of Research*eu magazine, we focused on efforts to ensure a safe and high-quality food system. One of the projects featured was STEFY, which had pioneered a 20-minute test that would help ensure safety standards in the wine and flour/cereal industry. We catch up with STEFY coordinator Matteo Salina, CEO of the lead project partner, the Italian SME Proxentia.

© Matteo Salina

The guiding principle behind STEFY (Sensor Technology for Food analYsis) was always about providing easy, precise and reasonably priced measurements of food safety at production sites which could not be achieved with present technologies. The STEFY team has achieved this through their patented Reflective Phantom Interface (RPI) technology that exploits the basic optical properties of light reflection. “When we last spoke, we were preparing to enter the wine and flour/cereal markets,” says Salina. “And right now, we’re conducting an extensive market campaign in Italy and Spain and are in touch with some of the major wine producers and distributors there. We’re also participating in various relevant worldwide events and one of our technicians is based in some of the outmost [wine] cellars in Spain and Italy, doing onsite training and collecting valuable data that allows us to further enhance our device.” But Proxentia isn’t just confining itself to these two markets. “In accordance with the fact that research is at the heart of what we do, new areas have also been explored,” Salina explains. “We’re also working on finished foods, such as bakery products and sweet specialties.” On top of this, Salina and his team have been focusing on different types of new cartridges for the detection and identification of pathogens in fruits and vegetables. This new product can be used in plant nurseries and directly in the field for pest monitoring and prevention, by replacing and speeding up some tests conventionally carried out only in specialised laboratories. And it’s not just the agri-food realm where Proxentia are active. They’re even engaged in the health field and disease diagnostic screenings through a project funded by the Lombardy Region. “We’ll be working with other SMEs that will eventually encourage the development of new medicines for both oncology and the Central Nervous System,” says Salina. It seems the only way is up for Salina and his team. “Through STEFY, we’ve built up a level of expertise that has been in high demand from more than a few research institutes and we’ve been able to join some top-level programmes,” Salina concludes. “And through the EU’s SME Instrument, STEFY has been fundamental for the development of Proxentia and its ability to be able to bring an innovative technique and product to the food safety market.”

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