The Institute of Photonic Technologies at Aston University was awarded a grant of £100,000 from the Garfield Weston Foundation toward the purchase of specialist equipment to support its research in food and agri-tech.
Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies (AIPT) is one of the world’s leading institutes in photonics - the science of generating, controlling and detecting photons, which are particles of light. This science underpins a vast range of technologies used in our everyday lives, from smartphones and lighting to the Internet and medical instruments.
The Institute’s strong industrial and international collaborations have led to five spin-out companies and a number of patents, creating and implementing new ideas for business and industry and paving the way for technologies which have the potential to address some of the future challenges around feeding an ever-growing population.
Food and agri-tech are of increasing importance both in the UK, where agri-food represents a £103 billion industry, and globally where the challenge is to safely feed an increasing population in the face of climate change.
The new equipment will support research into developing cost-effective photonic technology to revolutionize a range of food and agri-tech processes where reliable quality control is critical for volume processing and manufacturing. Other applications include determining the health and nutrient content of soil and screening for contaminants at high processing speeds in agriculture production lines.
In recognition of the award, one of the Institute’s laboratories within The Wolfson Centre for Photonics for Food and Agri-Tech will be named the Weston Agrifood Photonics Laboratory.
Professor Sergei Turitsyn, co-director of The Wolfson Centre for Photonics for Food and Agri-Tech, said: “UK agriculture will need to move from the old low cost labour models to technology-based solutions. Photonics already provides some techniques for quality control in food processing and manufacturing, which have changed how the sector operates.
“However, with new advances in photonics and new emerging technologies, there are considerable opportunities for further breakthroughs and solutions, which have the potential to revolutionise the food and agri-tech industries.
“Food quality and safety are among the biggest challenges that can have a direct impact on health and welfare of people. The grant from the Garfield Weston Foundation towards the purchase of specialist equipment will enable us to expand our research into this key area of high strategic interest and social importance.”