Machinery and technology group Bühler UK has won this year’s Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation in recognition of its research into camera technology used in sorting machines.
The technological breakthrough is being used to drive up food safety controls in the nut and frozen vegetable sectors while also helping to increase plastic recycling rates.
The Queen’s Award for Enterprise is the highest UK award for British businesses who have excelled in the fields of international trade, innovation, or sustainable development – this is the seventh Queen’s Award that has been won by Bühler UK since 1968.
This year’s achievement is in recognition of Bühler’s development of a unique camera technology used in sorting machines, capable of recognising the subtlest of colour and shading contrasts in materials and foods, and so significantly increasing detection rates for foreign materials, potential choke hazards or contaminated foods.
The technology is currently being used by food producers in Europe and the US, who are reporting increased detection rates for foreign materials up from 85 per cent to 95 per cent.
The UK-developed technology uses hyperspectral imaging to record vast amounts of wavelength data to generate highly accurate colour and shading contrasts for specific products.
This data is then statistically analysed to create algorithms that inform the sorting camera exactly what colour and shading contrasts to look for when detecting contamination or a foreign object in a production process.
“The innovation here is our ability to gather such large amounts of data and then use that data to optimise a conventional narrow band digital camera so that it is capable of quickly and efficiently detecting very specific things, whether it is shells in nuts, foreign materials in a vegetable production line or even different grades of polymers in a recycling plant,” explained Benedict Deefholts, senior research engineer Bühler UK.
One of the criteria for a Queen’s Award is that the technology should not just be innovative, but it must also be scalable, commercially viable and to have resulted in a material improvement to a commercial process.
“We are absolutely delighted to be receiving this seventh Queen’s award," said Matthew Kelly, managing director of digital technologies within the Bühler Group. "Innovation is at the heart of our business and it’s wonderful to see another cutting edge product making a big impact in the market; on food safety, food quality and of course generating commercial success for our customers."