Finnish food tech firm bags first prize for innovative ingredient sensor

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

The winning solution. © Spectral Engines
The winning solution. © Spectral Engines

Related tags: Nutrition, Allergy

Finnish food tech firm Spectral Engines has scooped up first prize in an EU competition for its food sensor that analyses ingredients, nutrients and detects allergens.

Spectral Engines’ scanner uses the world’s smallest near-infrared (NIR) spectral sensing module to deliver the spectral response of the light absorbed by the materials. It combines this with advanced algorithms, cloud-connectivity and a database to detect and decipher the fat, protein, sugar and total energy content of food.

The Commission launched the prize last year “help overcome the limitations of current food intake solutions and find radical breakthrough solutions in food scanning at a low price point.” ​This was necessary given the rapid rise of food-related health problems from obesity, type 2 diabetes and food allergies, it said.

The €1 million total prize was split into three separate awards with €800,000 going to Spectral Engines as a first prize and €100,000 each to the two runner-ups, Israeli firm SCiOscan and Canadian Tellspec.

The jury said Spectral Engines’s scanner provided a major step forward towards better food-sensor devices and may play a significant role in the emerging field of the 'Internet of Food' and smart personal nutrition. Special recognition was given because, unlike the other contestants, the Helsinki-based start-up developed both the food scanner’s hardware and software.

Spectral Engines CEO Jarkko Antila wrote in a blog post​: “Knowing how many companies there are currently developing consumer-products based on spectroscopic technology, winning the first prize from Horizon 2020 is real proof of the high quality solution we provided.

“The inducement prize gave us a real boost to forge ahead with development work, as the reward was an incentive for us to invest in our own R&D.”

By detecting food composition with a high level of accuracy, the start-up said it can help alleviate immediate food-related conditions, such as allergies or hypersensitivity as well as longer-term conditions like obesity.

Israeli data company SCiOscan offers food analysis using a miniaturised, inexpensive version of technology used by lab scientists for year.  

Menawhile Tellspec, the London-based branch of a Canadian company, developed a handheld, spectroscopic food sensor combining spectral sensors, bio-informatic techniques and learning algorithms to provide real-time, non-destructive food analysis.

“[These] three innovative companies cracked the challenge of developing a food scanner solution: an affordable and non-invasive mobile solution that enables users to measure and analyse their food intake,” ​said the Commission.

The companies were awarded the prizes yesterday at global IT trade show CeBIT 2017, held in Hannover.

The competition was launched as part of Horizon 2020.

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