Food Spectroscopy – From Farm to Table applications

Spectroscopy for Food applications from Farm to Fork

Spectroscopy is rapidly adding applications to facilitate the production, processing, characterisation, packaging and appearance of food crops to the meal on your table.

Applications can be divided into roughly two categories:

1) Visual or colour based applications
2) Spectral based applications in non visible wavelengths

We have experience and the right solutions for the applications in both categories.

In principal, when light strikes an object, the light changes. If the change is measurable, reproducible and diagnostic of a characterisation then it can be developed into an application. This statement serves as the basis for all the technology that we distribute.

Some application examples:

Spectral evaluation of fertiliser content in crops: The problem – Has too much or too little fertiliser been applied to the crops?

The solution – By using an Absorbance technique, our Chlorophyll Meter SPAD-502 Plus instrument is able to evaluate the fertiliser load by measuring the amount of Chlorophyll in the crop leaf. Its quick, clean and green as it also allows the farmer to manage over use and damaging the environment.

Applying the right amount of fertiliser is not only important to maintain proper crop health, but also as a way to optimise costs.

Once the crop has been harvested, prime processing takes place.
For example, wheat grain is harvested and then if it is to be turned into bread, it needs to be milled. The colour of the flour created by milling is important to the quality and type of bread to be produced. We spent about 5 years creating a new and precise colour measurement solution to replace a system devised in the 50’s.

The Problem – Unreliable Colour Grading and unreliable agreement between grades from different instruments.

The Solution – By using a Reflectance technique and a newly released Konica Minolta CM-5 or CR-5 model especially designed for this type of application, together with a major milling company, we were able to create a finely tuned Colour Scale which can be loaded into the Instruments TARGET data base.

The result is that millers can take a sample and within minutes have an accurate colour grade characterisation. Moreover, multiple sites within the group will be able to get the SAME colour grade for the same actual colour, due to the very high inter instrument performance agreement. This system is available to all millers should they wish and is also monitored by the Southern African Grain Laboratory NPC

R&D is also an area where Spectral Data is very valuable.

The problem – Sorting fruit products based on customer colour specifications to serve both local and export markets.

The solutions – In the ever competitive fruit market, research is being carried out to create fruits that are visually appealing to the consumer, especially for large markets like China where certain colours are more appealing than others.

The Agricultural Crop Sciences Fruit Research laboratories use our most sold instrument, the Konica Minolta CR400 / CR 410 Chroma Meters for a host of visible colour research tasks. With the ability to measure surfaces, juice, pulp and pastes, this instrument group is very versatile.

Throughout each of these stages, food safety and security will come into play. In this case we refer to adulteration and authentication of various food products.

The problem – How do you know if the product I’ve received has not been adulterated in any way?

The solution – Authentication and counterfeiting is also part of the Spectroscopy application capability. Ocean Optics has developed a portable solution for this market particularly for wines, spirits and in another version food oils like Olive Oil. The Spirit Sampler is robust, self contained and battery driven for use in the field as well as the laboratory.

Manufacturing sites deal with large volumes of product. Although it is okay to verify small samples from large batches (100gr), manufacturers are often looking for more certainty than the results from the small sample show. In these cases, companies are looking to verify and monitor the entire batch of production.

Production Management has traditionally been managed by small lab samples being tested on a regular basis. The difficulty with this is that with say a 30 ton per day facility, only a minute sample can be taken in a 12 hour days shift in the lab, over a very small volume of sample. We can now however use Spectroscopy to continuously measure In Line using Near Infra Red (NIR) Technology. A typical application can be the manufacture of Corn Flakes where accurate water content, protein content and more needs to be recorded. Suitable for both Bench Top and In-Line an operational system is outlined in this article

More and More Applications

Spectroscopy continues to provide solutions for more and more applications. If you would like to solve a challenge in your supply chain, contact us and we can assist in finding the right spectroscopy application for your problem.