Food Radar continues work to detect contaminants

Sven G. Bodell spoke to us during Anuga FoodTec 2015 in Cologne

Continuing with initial success and supporting brands already using the product is the way to grow, according to the president of a firm that uses microwave technology to detect foreign bodies in pumpable foods.

Food Radar is a sensor system designed for emulsions and pumpable products such as baby food, yogurt with fruit berries, spreads or tomato-based products.

The system can detect denser foreign bodies (i.e., metal, stone and glass) and contaminants such as wood, plastic, bone, extraneous vegetable matter and insects.

It takes up about one meter of pipe length and consists of an operator panel, rejection unit, buffer pipe and sensor unit.

We also spoke to the company during a video interview at the previous Anuga FoodTec in 2012.

Detecting a noise pattern

Sven G. Bodell, president of Food Radar Systems, said it uses microwaves to detect a difference between the foreign object and the food.

“We penetrate with microwaves through a pipe and we create a microwave field that covers the pipe. From that there is a noise pattern, a little bit like a footprint of the food that you are making at the time," he told FoodQualityNews. 

“When something comes along in the pipe that has a different dielectric property than the food you have it creates a different situation, it changes the noise level and we check if there is a change in that. So the food becomes the norm and anything that comes to differ from that, that is when we get a detection.

“Then there is an algorithm that at the right time sends a signal to a valve that opens and rejects the foreign objects.”

Bodell said it will be looking at widening the applications range but is also taking time to dwell on the success it has had.

“We have systems in South America, North America, Europe and Australia and that is not because we have gone after those markets," he said.

"That’s because we have talked and worked with big brands that have plants all over the world and they tell us where to put them. So basically we don’t look at it as geographical markets we look more at suitable product and credible players that we want to do business with.

“Of course we have other things of R&D going on to see if we can go outside what we are talking about here but that’s too early to talk about right now.”

It is typically placed between the final pump and the filling machinery before it is packaged depending on the kind of production.

When asked how the system deals with product changeovers, he said: “The system calibrates what is being produced at the time and that becomes the base. You don’t have to tell the system what you are making.

“It works on a relative scale, we put a threshold that has a noise level that is higher than the food is and that is adaptive so all the operator has to do is turn the equipment on they don’t really have to do any settings.”

Start to pilot plant and applications

Food Radar Systems started as a joint research project with industry and Chalmers University of Technology at SIK – The Swedish Institute for food and biotechnology.

It now has a fully equipped pilot plant in Gothenburg, Sweden where customers can test the systems capability to detect foreign bodies in their own products.

Bodell said it has worked on baby food, tomato producers and with fruit producers.

“Fruit has natural problems such as fruit stones, plus plastic from different things in the factory from tapes that come when they cut up a bag and move the product into the production area," he said. 

“When a machine is supposed to take the pips out it can miss it or split it. If you have an apricot pip for instance and split that it is one sharp object, it is no difference really than compared to glass.

“Another is tomato-based product, anything from the core tomato that is harvested and maybe made into diced tomatoes or for the people that make pasta sauces and they add different types of ingredients like carrots or whatever it is where they have lots of pieces. Then we can detect that foreign object with a low density in that.”   

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