In addition to traveling really fast and keeping us from stumbling over things in the dark, light is a pretty effective tool in the food supply chain. Stratio is putting light into the hands of people with the LinkSquare, a pen-sized infrared scanner and software platform that can be used to create apps to detect attributes like freshness and sweetness in foods.

I spoke with Su Oh, Chief Strategy Officer at Stratio, who told me LinkSquare’s real power is in is its size. The handheld device shines infrared light in wavelengths between 400-1000 nanometers on food (or lots of other objects like pills or even jewelry). The device captures how the food’s molecules vibrate to get an optical footprint, which Stratio’s AI platform then analyzes and sends the results to a user’s smartphone.

Stratio’s AI platform can analyze food for foodborne pathogens like E.Coli and Salmonella, or to determine levels of sweetness. It can even be used for fraud prevention in substances like alcohol, which may be mislabeled or diluted.

LinkSquare is built for the organizations like universities and research labs, but is at a low enough price point where theoretically anyone could use it. The device itself is $549, and Stratio offers a different AI and storage solutions for monthly subscriptions ranging between $10 and $100.

LinkSquare isn’t the only handheld spectrometer in the game. Consumer Physics makes the SCiO, a small (and controversial) infrared spectrometer that could examine the molecular makeup of food. On more industrial scale, companies like ImpactVision and P&P Optica use hyperspectral imaging to assess food quality and to look for foreign contaminants. SomaDetect uses light scattering analysis in dairy production to determine milk quality and help prevent disease.

Stratio was founded in 2013 after a decade of research at Stanford. The company received a number of grants for funding including one from the National Science Foundation. The company debuted LinkSquare in September 2017. Right now, the device is in use in more than 25 countries.

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