Using Sensors in Food and Agriculture

David Mount, of ULVAC Technologies – a global supplier of vacuum systems, also works with the CIA – though this isn’t the same CIA that you might be thinking of. ULVAC has been working with the Culinary Institute of America on the Menus of Change project.

The Menus of Change (MOC) project aims to improve both the environment and public health by increasing the level of responsibility in the food and culinary industries. In addition, ULVAC has been working with the MOC University Research Collaborative, a collaboration between culinary execs and universities to encourage Americans to adopt healthier, greener, plant-based diets. 

Nishita Rao, of MEMS & Sensors Industry Group, spoke to David Mount on this subject and his talk at the upcoming MEMS & Sensors Executive Congress in Napa, California.

How Was it that ULVAC and The CIA Began to Collaborate on the Menus of Change Project?

Many in the MEMS & sensor business are not aware that ULVAC first began as suppliers to the food industry. In 1952 ULVAC was a supplier of vacuum-powered freeze-drying systems to food companies who were supplying long-lasting foods to the military as part of the Marshall Plan. This would include things like noodles, instant soup and Tang.

Whilst ULVAC’s systems have diversified significantly since then, to include vacuum brazing systems for automotive manufacturers, deposition systems for semiconductors, and vaccine freeze drying (to create vaccines that can be hydrated when required), we have also continued to work with the food business. The vacuum cooling systems provided by ULVAC can be used to quickly and effectively cool foods, significantly prolonging their shelf life.

The CIA are leaders in food technology innovation. ULVAC worked with the CIA on a new vacuum cooling system, which can be ran either in the field or in the kitchen. For example, on central California farms the temperature can be as high as 104 oF where produce is being picked, using our portable system this produce can be cooled down to 47 oF in a matter of minutes.

The CIA also work with pre-cooked foods for use in unconventional settings such as airlines and university food halls. For example, a pre-cooked meal containing meat may be cooked at 350 oF then cooled to refrigeration temperatures. However, if this is not done with enough control bacteria can develop at this stage. Some of the CIA’s test kitchens for pre-cooked foods use vacuum cooling systems from ULVAC to alleviate this problem.

However, vacuum cooling only represents one stage in the food supply process, with sensors also used at the production and safety stages.

How are Sensors Used in the CIA Test Kitchen?

Almost every facet of management, production and processing in the agricultural and food industries require the properties of products to be measured and logged. For this reason sensors are an obvious choice as they are fast and accurate, and they behave consistently.

During my talk I plan to cover in depth some of the ways that the MOC Research Collaborative and the CIA use sensors to improve the safety of agricultural production.

What Do You Hope that Listeners to You Talk at MSEC Will Take Away?

I myself take a lot of pleasure in knowing how our sensors work can help humanity, and using this technology in food and agriculture is a great way of helping. I want other MSEC attendees to explore any other industries that can help improve our quality of life, and the health of the planet and the other animals that inhabit it.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by SEMI.

For more information on this source, please visit SEMI.

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