How many times have you eaten something that was beyond its expiry date but was actually fine? And how many times have you gone to eat food that was supposedly within its expiry date, only to find it’d gone bad?
Pablo Sosa Domínguez, Pilar Granado García and Luis Chimeno Moral have the answer, with their company Oscillum, which creates smart labels for food. These labels can be used for meat and fish, and help to fight food waste, while guiding consumers as to what food can and can’t be safely eaten.
Check out our interview with Pablo Sosa Domínguez to find out more.
Oscillum is a biotechnology startup based in Elche, Alicante (Spain). Oscillum was launched in 20179 with the aim of making the food value chain safer and more sustainable. We’re three passionate entrepreneurs with strong technical and market skills. We’ve developed smart labels that, once placed in contact with food, start monitoring in real time its quality, freshness and safety, and then change color accordingly. Basically, the label notifies all the stakeholders in the value chain about the status of their products, from the food producer to the end consumer.
Our technology aims to promote safety and sustainability by preventing both food poisoning and food waste (which also lowers our carbon footprint).
Our technology is fully able to detect the condition of fresh meat and fish. We’ve been undertaking research for several years, using meat and fish as our baseline to help us design our sensors. Our vision is to adapt our labels to suit as many products as possible. We’re just starting to design labels suitable for fruits and vegetables, and we want to design further labels which are suitable for dairy, cereals, processed food, cold cuts, leftovers, etc.
The idea comes from a situation that everyone reading this will find familiar: going to the fridge, finding the food that you want to cook and not knowing if it’s still ok. Most people will prefer to throw it in the garbage, but most of the time the food is actually safe to eat. On the other hand, our technology can also detect the presence of bacteria in food, preventing people from eating food which could cause food poisoning.
The major problem here is when we look at the data. More than a third of the food that’s produced ends up in the garbage, which means wasted resources in terms of land, energy, water, crops, and transport. This has a huge impact on our climate, with around 3,500m tons of CO2 produced every year. With that amount of emissions, if food waste was considered a country, it would be the third most polluted country in the world.
One of our biggest challenges is to change the paradigm of the labelling system. To tell the consumer that the best before dates on their products are only a guide to be used as a reference point once you open the product. A big part of our work is to try to teach people how our technology works and how beneficial it is for our world.
I think there are plenty of tips online to reduce food waste, but most of them are outdated. Our parents and grandparents taught us many things in terms of food waste. Planning meals and buying only the exact amount of food needed is the best way to reduce waste at home. Using your freezer wisely, freezing products in portions and unfreezing them when needed also helps to keep food safe, especially meat and fish. Of course the best way to avoid food waste is by not throwing food away. I know it’s obvious, but I’m talking about rethinking how we use leftovers for the next day’s meal.
These are very easy and efficient ways to reduce food waste. If we want to go further and also prevent waste in our small shops in towns and cities, there are many more solutions. My favorite so far is the app “Too Good To Go”. I’m sure many readers already know of this app to help reduce food waste.
We have several agreements in place with companies to run pilots in the next year, so we’ll be testing our technology on real customers. In parallel, we expect to start designing the industrial plant since it’s required for the certification. On the technical side, we’re also starting to adapt our technology for future products.
Basically, we need to continue to work as hard as we are now.