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Food packages can 'speak' and help consumers make sustainable decisions

Sensor label allows food packages to 'speak' and help consumers make better-informed, economical, and sustainable decisions

MIT Portugal Program

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IMAGE: Mater Dynamics, a Portuguese startup company, received the highest prize in the fourth Energia de Portugal competition. The entrepreneurship contest, promoted by Expresso and EDP, culminated in an investment pitch... view more

Credit: Energia de Portugal / Mater Dynamics

Mater Dynamics, a Portuguese startup company, received the highest prize in the fourth Energia de Portugal competition. The entrepreneurship contest, promoted by Expresso and EDP, culminated in an investment pitch competition, where Mater Dynamics won the € 20,000 prize.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, Portugal), one of every three meals is discarded, not eaten. Wasted meals from restaurants, catering services, and households represent 51% of global food waste.

Mater Dynamics developed a commercial sensor based on work by FCT-NOVA and MIT Portugal researchers Tiago Cunha Reis, Ana Machado, and Diana Fernandes. Their research included creation of sensors for monitoring the quality of food products. Small sensors can be applied to a package and communicate directly with a mobile phone, tablet, or computer. This would allow consumers to verify at any time which products they have at home and the freshness of each. Consumers could not only save money but reduce food waste.

The new sensor developed by Mater Dynamics, QStamp®, measures variables that affect the quality of food products and can communicate with a mobile app or other device. QStamp can monitor external factors, such as temperature and humidity, as well as measure the quality of the food product throughout its life cycle.

In addition, when applied to packages, QStamp lets consumers know via a mobile device or computer which products they have at home and whether these foods need to be replaced. Shopping becomes easier, as consumers can check via their phones to find out what they need to buy. Also, when a product's shelf life is coming to an end, household members can receive a notification, which could help to avoid household food waste.

QStamp smart tags can be applied by consumers to their containers of daily use (plastic boxes, glass jars, freezer bags, and paper bags) or by food producers and processors directly to their products, allowing for better stock management and quality monitoring.

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