Whether or not you care that your food is organic, locally sourced or non-GMO, one thing I think we can all agree on is that we’d like our food free of harmful chemical contaminants. But testing food for such contaminants requires samples to be sent to a lab, which is a time-consuming and expensive process.
Inspecto is looking to simplify and speed up this process for food producers and manufacturers with its device dubbed, appropriately, Inspecto. Using the small appliance, samples of food can be loaded into a special Inspecto capsule on-site, whether that’s at a farm or further along the supply chain. The capsule is inserted into the machine, which uses Raman Spectroscopy to analyze it for contaminants.
Don’t know what Raman Spectroscopy is? We didn’t either, here’s a quick introduction from Wikipedia:
Raman spectroscopy (/ˈrɑːmən/); named after Indian physicist Sir C. V. Raman) is a spectroscopic technique used to observe vibrational, rotational, and other low-frequency modes in a system. Raman spectroscopy is commonly used in chemistry to provide a structural fingerprint by which molecules can be identified.
The fingerprints Inspecto looks for are the chemical contaminants (more on those in a minute) that can wind up in our favorite foods. After testing the sample, Inspecto beams the physical analysis to the cloud where Inspecto’s algorithms process the findings and deliver results back, usually within a half hour, depending on what is being tested and tested for.
The result is the ability for food producers to test their ingredients for contaminants in the field in real time. So a Japanese coffee company could test green coffee beans for a particular contaminant in South America before the beans ever get on a boat, without needing (or waiting) to send samples off to a lab.
I spoke with Inspecto Co-Founder and CEO, Avner Avidan, who told me that while his company’s technology can be used to detect just about any liquid or solid contaminant, right now, Inspecto is focusing on analyzing big crops like coffee, wheat, rice and soy for chemical contaminants such as acrylamide, which, Avidan says it can detect all the way down to 50 parts per billion.
While Inspecto can be installed along the supply chain, one thing it can’t do is broad scanning and analysis. That means that there won’t be some gigantic Inspecto-beam situated above a conveyor belt scanning food in real-time as it passes underneath like ImpactVision and P&P Optica do using hyperspectral imaging to detect foreign matter. Inspecto is more like the Nima sensor, using a combination of special hardware and capsules that analyze a particular food for one contaminant.
Right now, Inspecto is finalizing its exact pricing plan, but Avidan said the company will sell both the device and single-use capsules. For larger customers, there may also be a data subscription for greater access to analytics.
Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, has raised $1.7 million USD in seed funding and is currently in trials with three food companies in Europe and one in the U.S.. Inspecto’s plan is to continue trialing throughout this year and go to market in 2020.