Space technology launches food detection system

Earlier this week I learned that the UK Technology Strategy Board is currently running its Space Launchpad initiative – a competition rewarding innovative early stage companies with funding to help harness space technologies for their innovative designs. Amongst the 11 companies chosen was Intersight, which has come up with an innovative concept of using space technology to detect contaminants in food.

In total, 11 companies were selected for the initiative, all of which is part of the 2010 Space Innovation and Growth Strategy’s objective of growing the UK space sector from £7bn today to £40bn by 2030. Of those organisations, Intersight has made very intriguing use of space technology to detect contaminants in food, competing with traditional food inspection systems that utilise x-ray and metal detection systems.

Instead, Intersight’s equipment makes use of a terahertz solution that can simultaneously ‘see’ the types of physical contamination that other scanners cannot see, plus inspect other materials such as soft plastics and cartilage – currently not detected by most systems in the market.

Particularly suitable for the inspection of baked goods, the hope is that the technology will appeal to any food manufacturer looking to overcome existing inspection problems. Intersight has the ability to offer bespoke systems based on specific requirements, meaning there is a vast range of potential applications.

However, the organisation is also keen to avoid the technology being deemed a ‘plastic detection system’ that does virtually nothing all day, and so it has also been developed to check quantities of products sealed in their final packaging – such as boxed ready meals – to ensure that not only the quality is of the required standard, but that the quantity measures up too.

The only potential drawback is that space technology is traditionally expensive to implement, but Intersight is working hard to find application areas in which the technology can be a legitimately affordable option. Still under development, it is expected that the technology could be ready for the market in approximately 18 months’ time.

– Simon Rowley

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