The Future of Pathogen Detection is Making Food Safer to Eat

The team at Kraken Sense is setting a new standard for quality assurance

Have you ever had to throw out a bag of lettuce or a salad mix in a panic because of a food recall? Food contamination and waste is a concern for consumers and producers alike, and it’s one the team at Kraken Sense in Mississauga, Ontario (soon to be in Sydney, Nova Scotia) is helping to mitigate.

Co-founders Nisha Sarveswaran and Jamal Zeinalov have developed a sensor technology that can detect pathogens— E. coli, salmonella, and legionella— in real time in large-scale food and water systems. Kraken Sense’s unique electrically conductive strips are designed to support food processing and agriculture industries. Its autonomous system can detect bacterial contamination in under five minutes and help identify issues at the source, before contaminated food reaches consumers. Current bacterial detection systems can take up to three days, and this lag can lead to costly, and potentially harmful, food recalls. Bagged and packaged foods, like salad mixes, can cause even the smallest bit of bacterial contamination to grow over time if not detected quickly and accurately.

“Water quality has always been a concern of mine, but it’s very hard to get data that you can do anything with in terms of prevention,” Sarveswaran says. “But our propriety sensors have the potential to be able to show the industry new testing and regulation standards that are beneficial for everyone involved.”

If the technology does detect a problem, then the producer is able to clean out their water system, throw the contaminated batch of food away, and make sure the next batch is safe. The frequency of data and detection ensures that as little food as possible is wasted in the event of contamination. 

Kraken Sense is currently in the early stages of commercialization, and is piloting the technology with partners in Nova Scotia. They are also piloting an application of the technology in the agriculture industry with Fresno State University in Fresno, California. Pathogens in the water in irrigation systems used in farming can cause contamination in crops, and the technology could be used to detect problems with food even before it reaches food processing facilities.

“I’m really excited about all the innovations happening in the food industry,” Sarveswaran. “We have to be able to support population growth. There is only so much arable land, and we have to be cognizant of our climate impact and food waste. The food industry is going to be changing a lot in the next few years as people seek fresh, quality food at a reasonable price, while minimizing food waste.”

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