Better sensors will reduce food wastage

September 24th, 2008 - 1:46 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 24 (IANS) Advances in sensing technology will help reduce food wastage, causing a loss of 10 billion pounds ($20 billion) annually in Britain alone, according to a report.Sensors can detect early indications of food spoilage before visual signs are apparent, identify toxins and monitor water and nutrient concentration within the soil to improve irrigation efficiency.

“The government’s ‘food matters’ document highlights that the production and disposal of food not only costs billions but contributes significantly to the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions,” said Phil Cooper, director of the Sensors & Instrumentation Knowledge Transfer Network.

“New developments in sensing technology are helping to improve the efficiency of everyday processes, reduce costs and benefit the environment,” said Cooper.

“One example is a University of Manchester project which is developing a low-cost sensing device to help slash the UK’s food wastage bill,” he added.

The Syngenta Sensors University Innovation Centre (UIC) aims to develop affordable sensors which monitor critical factors throughout the food supply chain, reports Eurekalert.

“Currently ‘best before’ dates are set by manufacturers and are based on worst case assumptions about the condition of our food between harvest and consumption. Most food is perfectly ok to eat days after its displayed best before date,” said Bruce Grieve, UIC director.

The new printed sensors are based on radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and will be modified to have battery-free data storage. Pulses of energy from transmitters will provide enough power to transmit data. This should minimise the size and costs of each sensor from 5-25 pounds to less than 5 pence.

The UIC sensing technology will be licensed and ready for production in 2009.

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