UK – Leeds Beckett University has forged a partnership with Father’s Farm Foods, a family-owned business based in Bradford, to enhance the screening process for aflatoxin in pistachio nuts through the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and hyperspectral imaging technology.

Aflatoxin, a carcinogenic toxin commonly found in pistachio nuts, poses significant challenges to the food industry due to its potential health risks.

Manual screening methods, although currently in use, are often costly, time-consuming, and prone to errors, leading to the discarding of entire batches of nuts. The collaboration aims to develop an innovative screening platform that can automate the process, reduce waste, and enhance efficiency.

Dr. Akbar Sheikh-Akbari, Reader in Electronic Engineering at Leeds Beckett University, leads the project, leveraging hyperspectral imaging technology to create a detailed “fingerprint” of pistachio nuts based on their composition.

This approach, combined with AI algorithms, will enable the accurate classification of nuts based on their contamination levels, providing a breakthrough solution for the industry.

Dr. Hossein Mehrabinejad, CEO of Father’s Farm Foods, expressed excitement about the collaboration’s potential to drive progress and growth for the company. The envisioned screening service, once developed, aims to be offered to other companies for a fee, extending the impact of the innovation across the industry.

Regulatory compliance and international expansion

With regulations governing aflatoxin levels in pistachio nuts in over 120 countries, the robust screening platform will ensure compliance and facilitate successful exports

Father’s Farm Foods plans to leverage the new screening platform to enhance both UK and international sales, ensuring compliance with global standards and bolstering market competitiveness.

The project, managed by a dedicated Research Assistant and supported by expert Leeds Beckett academics, brings together expertise in electronic engineering, nutrition, physiology, and microbiology.

The collaboration exemplifies innovation in the food processing industry, combining cutting-edge technologies and scientific research to drive long-term positive impact.

Recognizing Innovate UK’s emerging technologies

Hyperspectral imaging, listed as one of Innovate UK’s 50 Emerging Technologies, holds immense potential beyond food safety applications. Its capabilities in monitoring extreme climate events, healthcare diagnostics, and microbiological imaging underscore its versatility and significant benefits across various sectors.

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) will span 33 months, harnessing the collective knowledge and expertise of Leeds Beckett University and Father’s Farm Foods to revolutionize pistachio nut processing and set new standards for food safety and quality in the industry.

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