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Real Time Monitoring using Infrared Lasers and Ultraviolet LEDs to Prevent Food Waste

Award Information
Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
Branch: N/A
Contract: 68HERC20C0039
Agency Tracking Number: B195B-0005
Amount: $99,999.80
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: 19-NCER-5B
Solicitation Number: 68HERC19R0052
Solicitation Year: 2019
Award Year: 2020
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2020-03-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2020-08-31
Small Business Information
2350 Alamo Avenue SE, Suite 280
Albuquerque, NM 87106-3225
United States
DUNS: 089947961
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: Yes
Principal Investigator
 Jeremy Yeak
 (505) 363-8012
Business Contact
 Jeremy Yeak
Title: President
Phone: (505) 363-8012
Research Institution

To monitor the freshness of fresh produce in storage and during transportation, we propose using a gas sensor based on swept]wavelength broadly tunable external cavity quantum cascade lasers (EQCCLs).These sensors detect, identify, and quantify multiple chemical species in the airspace near the sensor continuously and in real]time, with part]per]billion level sensitivity. The sensors will monitor the air in food storage areas for key gases including ethylene, alcohols, ketones, acetates, amines, and more produced by vegetables and fruits as they ripen and before they spoil. The detection of ethylene in food storage facilities is critical as it is emitted naturally during ripening and can also accelerate the ripening process if allowed to accumulate. However, although ethylene is an indicator of ripening for climacteric fruits and vegetables, it is not universal for all produce and is not directly an indicator of pre]spoilage.Using our proposed monitoring system, we will measure the airspace around produce in storage continuously to detect when multiple key gases reach threshold levels indicating that spoilage is imminent. We will then take mitigating steps to (1) notify the operators of the storage facility to prioritize use of the produce near spoilage and (2) extend the shelf life of produce applying deep ultraviolet air sterilization to breakdown air pathogens and volatile organic compounds without changing the nutritional value of the produce.Current technologies for produce monitoring focus almost exclusively on ethylene detection. Our technology will improve on existing techniques by detecting multiple additional gases simultaneously and continuously at much lower concentrations, and by doing so will be applicable to nearly all food types to detect pre]spoilage conditions in storage. The potential market size for this technology is estimated to be > $1B, assuming even a modest reduction in food waste of > 1%.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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