Fresh Check: The smart solution to food spoilage
People around the world throw away more than 1.3 billion tonnes of out-of-date food each year. At Fresh Check, we’re guilty of wasting both food and money by throwing away food that is past its use-by date. In fact, almost everyone we’ve spoken to has walked the fine line between saving money and food poisoning a few times, or at least had an argument about it with their families, friends or flatmates! The same is certainly true for us, and it was from this frustration that Fresh Check was born.
Our simple technology started as a smart solution to detect food spoilage which centred on visualising harmful bacterial contamination with a blue to orange colour change. The material remains blue in safe settings and turns orange in areas that might cause harm. Since developing the initial technology our product and business model have grown and changed, but we’ve always stuck to the detection of poor hygiene. Now we look not only at food packaging, but have developed a blue to orange colour-changing spray for use in restaurants, hospitals, food producing plants and at home, to warn users of any health risks.
As we set out in developing our solution to the problem of hygiene detection, we had to make some decisions that would direct exactly how we would work. Before we even started trying to create a product, we knew we had to be experts in our potential solution. As PhD students in Chemical Biology, a biotech-style solution seemed like the most obvious fit.
Our second consideration was that we needed something that was safe, cheap and easy to adopt. After a few weeks of research, we found a solution that fitted our criteria.
Choosing to develop our product in an area where we were already knowledgeable really paid off, as each person we spoke to evolved our idea. Each seemingly minor change almost always resulted in a lot more work than expected, and being able to draw on our chemical biology background allowed us to adapt our ideas more easily.
Of course, not everything is in our wheelhouse and a great example of that is engineering. None of us have experience in materials engineering and on one occasion, we had to bring someone on board to help us refine our product for a potential customer. Even the simple manufacturing process for our spray has presented engineering difficulties. For example, how to upscale from a small batch process to a larger pilot plant so we can start selling!
The hard work all pays off
All our work on small-scale research and design has, however, proved beneficial. We are now starting to explore rolling out trials of our hygiene spray in large companies. For us, the real reward came when we presented a product that didn’t just excite us, but also excited the companies we were talking to.
Developing our spray version isn’t the only thing we are interested in though, and by 2020 we want Fresh Check to be even larger. We have a whole suite of products in mind that we are looking to roll out, such as food spoilage labels and even infection monitoring bandages for use in healthcare.
Throughout the development of Fresh Check, there have been countless ups and downs. As our different ideas and principals were proven and disproven, we have been both exhausted and exhilarated. Now, we have a product that people want, a product that people come and find us for. It took many iterations to get us here, but as we find ourselves at this stage, we know that our perseverance has been worth it.
Dr Masato Sagawa awarded the world’s most prestigious engineering accolade for the development of the sintered Neodymium Iron Boron permanent magnet.Read more
The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering is delighted to support a new initiative devised by teacher and author Alom Shaha entitled ‘A Month of Making’.Read more