CORDIS - EU research results

A quantitative, multifunctional, non-invasive and cost-effective food freshness indicator to reduce food waste

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ColorSensing (A quantitative, multifunctional, non-invasive and cost-effective food freshness indicator to reduce food waste)

Reporting period: 2018-11-01 to 2019-03-31

Every year more than one 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted with an impact of €854bn globally. We lose one third of the food produced globally, which is a huge problem - both environmentally and economically. ColorSensing is a quantitative, multifunctional, cost-effective, and non-invasive food freshness and safety indicator designed to reduce waste in fresh food and to become the next quality standard in packaged fresh food manufacturing. Our innovative label-based technology uses an intelligent ink sensible to food freshness parameters and generates a QR code that can be scanned by users and integrated with digital solutions.
The overall objective of the project was to determine the viability of ColorSensing and to carry out the necessary activities to ensure market success. These activities began validating the technological feasibility, identifying its potential features and its limitations and defining a development plan with clear milestones after redefining the product range based on the market inputs. Another objective was to perform a thorough market assessment, quantifying the market size, identifying potentially interested customers and technological partners, defining eventual pilot projects, both of technological implementation and of validation with potential clients, detecting relevant regulations, competitors, market barriers and growth potential. Another relevant objective was to define an IPR strategy and the work plan for Phase 2, assessing possible risks.
We have created an ecosystem of partners covering all the stakeholders involved in our business model: food manufacturers, food retailers, food technology centres, packaging and label printing companies, ink producers, packaging material producers, packaging system suppliers, food, packaging and optical technology regional clusters (Packaging Cluster, Innovacc, FoodService and Sechpho), food manufacturers associations and market places, and public key institutions such as the EIT Food.
Thanks to this ecosystem, we have been able to perform a thorough market assessment, analyse the competitive landscape, validate the need we are targeting with the users, redefine the specifications of the product to make a realistic minimum viable product, regarding both the functional features and the price, and assess the technological feasibility of its implementation and validation, while having in mind the final ideal solution and the road to achieve it. For that purpose, we have grown the team incorporating agile work methodologies, and experts in different key fields for the company have joined our advisory board. With these resources, we have assessed operational, technological and economic viability, as well as elaborated a robust Business Plan to define the business growth, sustainability, exploitation strategies, and tactics to pave the way to a global market.
Organization (FAO), every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted - enough to feed 3 billion people. Food waste represents a waste of resources used in production such as land, water, energy, labour and capital and needlessly produces greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming and climate change. This estimated food waste accounts for 28% of agricultural land area, has a land and groundwater footprint of more than 250 km3 per year, and generates 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases.
ColorSensing has developed a label that uses smart inks for sensing, indicating, and monitoring multiple parameters inside the package without opening it: gases (CO2, NH3, O2 or Ethylene), temperature, pH, humidity, etc. These inks change their colour depending on the measured parameter. We have developed an algorithm that can design a code (QR) that permits the integration of intelligent inks in some pixels and many other colour pixels so that when taking a picture of the QR code containing these pixels we correct the distortion of the colour in the image and quantitatively measure the colours of the pixels that contain intelligent inks, thus obtaining the desired measurement. The readings will be done with a fixed station in the packaging line and a mobile application for the rest of the chain in which end-users will be informed and receive alerts if necessary.
Our value proposition focuses on developing the technology to offer fresh food manufacturers and retailers the first quantitative, multi-functional, cost-effective, and non-invasive indicator to monitor the freshness of packaged foods. Not only that, but our strategy is aligned with environmental and societal global challenges since our disruptive technology will increase efficiency in the food supply chain and cut down food waste. In addition, European regulations are evolving to better determine and match the estimated expiry and preferred consumption date with the food’s actual freshness.
The right timing for ColorSensing is now and it is driven by all of these factors.
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