SORTING TO SAVE LIVES

Transforming lives and livelihoods with safe food

Contaminated food is a cause of over 200 diseases, and it leads to around one in 10 people falling ill each year, according to the World Health Organization. A common source of contamination of staple foods is naturally occurring mycotoxins produced by mold on grain. The mold thrives in warm, humid conditions − a problem that will only get worse with the effects of climate change.

One of the most highly carcinogenic is aflatoxin. Around 500 million people – mainly in the world’s poorest regions – are at risk of chronic exposure to aflatoxins, which can affect the immune system, stunt children’s growth, and cause liver cancer.

A team of dedicated engineers at Bühler has taken a big step toward solving this challenge with LumoVision, an optical sorting application able to identify and sort corn contaminated with aflatoxin faster and more accurately than has ever been possible. The team designed a hyperspectral camera and powerful LED-based UV lighting system to cut contamination rates by 90%. With these, each kernel is analyzed as it passes the machine’s sensors. Contaminated grains that glow brightly under the UV light are blown out of the product stream by air nozzles that deploy within milliseconds of detection.

By connecting LumoVision to the cloud via the Bühler Insights platform, which was developed together with Microsoft, it is possible to make a real-time risk assessment of the grains as they are processed. The data collected is securely transmitted to the platform, where it is compared to other data such as the weather conditions under which the corn grew. This data is combined to calculate the risk of contamination for each grain. By comparing the data collected by LumoVision to the data stored in the cloud, it is even possible to assess the risk of aflatoxin occurring in each batch from a certain provider and optimize sorting accordingly. This predictive technology will bring food safety to new levels.

LumoVision processes up to 15 tons of product an hour. It also reduces yield loss to less than 5%. So it’s no surprise that in 2018, Forbes called it a “remarkable new technology.”

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