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Development of a cost-efficient, precise and miniaturized sensor system (Nano-Spectrometer) for quality and process control in the food industry

Periodic Report Summary 1 - FOOD-WATCH (Development of a cost-efficient, precise and miniaturized sensor system (Nano-Spectrometer) for quality and process control in the food industry)

Project Context and Objectives:
The total consumption of bread and bakery products was estimated at approx. 39 million tonnes in the EU 27 countries with the biggest markets being France and Germany. This equals individual bread consumption in the range of 50kg per year and thus bread can be considered as one of the most important European foodstuffs1. More than 95% of the total number of bakeries in Europe are SMEs, equalling more or less 135 000 often still family-owned businesses. These produce approx. 1/3 of the total volume of bakery products and are further responsible for the large variety of bakery products including regional specialities available in Europe. For example in Germany about 300 different sorts of bread and more than 1200 other pastries are known. Products from SME bakeries are mostly baked from scratch and directly sold to the consumer.
However, bread production is more and more carried out by large, international, industrial companies - particularly in Northern and Eastern Europe. These industrial bakeries typically hold large, nearly fully-automatic operating factories working in 24hours shifts, producing pre-packed, long-life, part-baked or frozen products, sold to the consumer via retailers, bakery chains or catering services. Due to the high-productivity of the industrial bakeries, they can offer their products for lower prices at nearly the same quality. Furthermore, they can easily achieve the fixed standards regarding product conformity (constant quality characteristics) which retailers expect. What they cannot achieve is the variety of different regional/traditional products and specialties available with the SME bakeries - their product range comprises not more than approx. 15 different types.
Quality assurance plays a key role in the food industry. Current control of safety and quality characteristics of the various products is carried out mainly by random sampling of the initial, intermediate and/or final products. However, this methodology does not allow immediate adjustments to the production process in case any negative quality features are detected and consequently large batches of non-conforming products often need to be disposed.
Therefore the FoodWatch project aims to develop an innovative and affordable process and quality control system for industrial food production which allows for continuous quality measurement and process adjustment. The complete system consists on the one hand of an optic measurement unit and on the other hand of a software package for automatic monitoring, control, and adjustment of the production process which will furthermore be compatible with the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) method. The optic measurement unit uses sensors based on nano-spectrometry (Fabry-Pérot principle) to detect important process parameters. The complete Food-Watch system will in this project be developed for the application in bakeries, as bread is one of the most important staple foods in Europe. Important process parameters in the baking industry such as the degree of browning, caramelization, or temperature and humidity of the ambient air will be analyzed and the data used to adjust the baking process (temperature, humidity) in real-time through a feedback loop.
The Food-Watch project brings together 3 technical SMEs, 2 SME bakeries and three research centre in order to develop and test the FoodWatch sensor. The overall, scientific and technological objectives of FoodWatch are listed below.

Project Results:
FoodWatch started in August 2014. Five of eight work packages of the work programme have been running within the first reporting period which finalized in April 30st 2015:
Work packages 1 has been finalized and work packages 2, 3, 7 and 8 are still running. The work package 7 and work package 8 are work packages of dissemination activities and management activities and have a runtime during the whole project (month 1 till month 24). A brief description of the work performed and main results of each work package is provided below:
Within work package 1 the end-user partners’ target products and corresponding production schemes were assessed. With this base the end users requirements as well as the technical specifications, SOPs and sensor validation laboratory program were defined.
In Work Package 2 the first generation of sensor was developed. With this prototype spectral measurements of humidity in the air (infrared) were conducted. Additionally a measurement setup for laboratory measurements was built and work on the development of filtration elements for the nanospectrometer is running.
During the work package 3 the hardware system was developed including a numerous interface. Furthermore the development of a software system for controlling air flow, temperature and humidity is developed and both systems will be integrated in the sensor first generation.
Work package 7 deals mainly with specific dissemination and exploitation activities for fast market penetration. To widespread the uptake and European impact of the project results a series of comprehensive dissemination activities are producing which will be very closely linked to the protection of knowledge in order to keep the market advantage against competitors. In the first period the development of webpage and dissemination flyer have be done and finalized.
Furthermore a marketing strategy should be developed in this work package to get a fast introduction in the market.
Finally, work package 8 comprises all project management activities: monitoring the compliance of all partners with their obligations, administering the EC financial contribution and distributing it in accordance with the consortium and grant agreements, efficient and correct communication and reporting with the EC, knowledge and IPR management, etc..

Potential Impact:
It can be concluded that there is a huge market potential for cost-efficient and reliable monitoring and control technologies. Therefore, the expected final result of this project is to develop, test and demonstrate a novel quality and process control sensor system, based on nano-spectrometry for ovens in SME bakeries (deck oven/baking line will be investigated). This sensor is extremely miniaturized, cost-effective and offers a non-invasive, real time measurement. The control of the key parameters affecting the baking step (humidity, temperature, and degree of browning/caramelisation) by this sensor will be most effective in order to achieve a constantly high product quality and reduce energy wasted as well as discard in SME bakeries (= non-conforming products). The Food-Watch system will be integrable in systematic preventive approaches such as the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) method, and serve as building-blocks for practical decision-making tools and early warning systems. Subsequently, the interest of end-users towards the Food-Watch technology will be high and will be further increased by widespread demonstration and dissemination activities which have been included in this project. These will improve the acceptance of this technology, eliminate concerns and prepare its market entry.

With the novel Food-Watch sensor, an easy to integrate system should developed. Furthermore the system will be constructed easy to handle and with a user friendly software, which make the Food-Watch system to a system that can lead to a breakthrough for innovative process and quality control designed for the specific needs of SME bakeries.

Therefor in the first period the needs and requirements as well as the technical specifications were defined. The first prototype of nanospectrometer sensor was developed and tested and the hardware control system was developed.
In the next period, the software will be developed, the sensor will be fabricated and the software control system integrated. Additionally the ovens will be constructed and delivered to the SME bakeries and ttz Bremerhaven for comprehensive test series to get comprehensive results for the description of the functionality of the sensor and demonstration workshops. Finally at the end of the second period a marketing concept will be developed to go in the market.

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