At a time when food safety breakdowns are costing businesses more than ever, a Lincoln, NE, startup known as Presage Analytics hopes to help food processors track contaminants and prevent costly recalls and outbreaks of illness.
Harshavardhan Thippareddi, a professor in the department of food science and technology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Jeyamkondan Subbiah, associate professor of biological systems engineering and food science and technology, saw that the tracking of microbial data over time was a missing link in food safety programs.
They created a software prototype to track and analyze the environmental and product testing data that companies already collect, particularly focused on microbial data.
NUtech Ventures, the nonprofit affiliate of the University of Nebraska that works to develop partnerships between UNL researchers and industry professionals, matched the professors and their software prototype with iSoft Data Systems, Matthew Wegener's Lincoln company, for its expertise in inventory management and production management software.
In an interview, Wegener offered the adage about the unpleasantness of watching laws or sausage being made. That may be true from the consumer's point of view, but the fact is that in food processing, bacteria, good and bad, are everywhere. It's a matter of management, he said, making sure you don't have a problem from a direct source that leads to a contamination that causes an outbreak of some kind that leads to a recall that costs money.
So he and his colleagues at iSoft approached the problem from the production systems side, using software to analyze the trends of data to help a customer make sure there are no problem spots contributing to a decline in the quality of the food being processed.
Now in a beta phase with a poultry processor, the software eventually will have a corrective action program to it, too, he said.
“The software provides the food industry a means to connect the dots in case of a food safety issue through trend analysis to manage and prevent future food safety issues such as recalls and food-borne illness outbreaks, which can be devastating for the industry,” said Subbiah, on NUTech Venture's website.
Wegener said they see huge potential to get this product into the market quickly and to truly improve food safety internationally.
This is Wegener's first collaboration with NUTech, and he is happy about it.
"Working with them was fantastic," he said. "Our experience was top notch. They helped us with market research and validation." The person interning for NUTech on the project has been hired by iSoft, he said.
Recently, Presage took its first marketing step by exhibiting at the International Association for Food Protection trade show, focused on microbiology and food safety.
Wegener will serve as president of the new company. It will be housed at Turbine Flats, 21st and Y streets, with iSoft as the major partner, using its employees for the time being. Thippareddi and Subbiah will serve as advisers as well as board members. Anthony Merrit and Dillon Sadofsky, ISoft employees, also serve as board members.