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Press Release - 10 August 2005

No flies on salad firm thanks to engineers

A collaboration between a salad producer and the University of Bath has resulted in a novel system for stopping insects getting into food.

Hampshire-based Vitacress Salads Ltd asked the University to come up with a scheme to ensure no foreign bodies found their way into their washed and bagged salads during production.

The University’s Research and Innovation Services staff enlisted the help of the Department of Mechanical Engineering to design a new automatic inspection system, forming a Knowledge Transfer Partnership to help the company.

Recent graduate Amit Kumavat, with supervision from Professor Steve Culley, designed the system, which includes devices to separate leaves automatically.

Amit also worked with the Professor of Biomimetics, Julian Vincent, to create artificial “bugs” with transponders in them as a test for the new system. These can be deliberately introduced into the salad production system and will transmit signals if they successfully make it through inspection without being extracted automatically by Amit’s system.

The collaboration was so successful that Amit Kumavat is now employed by Vitacress as Improvements Engineer, with a remit of improving efficiency and quality, and reducing waste and labour costs.

His system ensures products are of a consistently high quality, even though pesticide usage has been reduced, makes more money for the company and is an engineering success.

Mike Rushworth, Operations Director at Vitacress, based at St Mary Bourne, Andover, said: “The projects have exposed us to some high potential, young graduates, and have created the environment within which they can contribute significantly and directly to our competitiveness in a highly competitive market.”

A second Knowledge Transfer Partnership is now running to design a more effective harvester for use on crops both in the UK and in Portugal which will remove more foreign bodies at source.


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