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Joint Venture Sells Meat Scanner Software to Multi-National

12 AUGUST 2015
Kiwi Joint Venture Sells Meat Scanner Software to Multi-National

Scanning technology that has advanced quality control in New Zealand’s red meat industry, saving millions of dollars a year, has been sold to the multi-national precision instrument-maker Mettler Toledo for an undisclosed sum.

The scanner uses New Zealand-developed software to make instantaneous measurements of fat content of red meat on conveyer belts before the product leaves the processing plant for overseas markets.

Red meat is sold internationally based on its fat content – a measurement known as ‘chemical-lean’ or CL. Different markets require different CL measurements.

If a consignment falls outside a required CL standard, there can be financial claims against the exporter.

Prior to the introduction of the real-time meat scanner, the industry took small samples of meat from export boxes for testing in a laboratory – a process that was expensive and time-consuming.

The x-ray device, similar to an airport baggage scanner, measures bulk meat or boxes of export meat as they pass on a conveyor belt, increasing quality control, improving operating efficiency and reducing costs.

Development of the technology started in the late 1980s with specialists at GNS Science working with ANZCO Foods Ltd to build a robust prototype that could comfortably handle challenging conditions in a meat processing plant.

The partnership was formalised in 2000 when GNS Science and ANZCO Foods established the joint venture Meatvision, to take the product through to commercial reality.

ANZCO Foods provided the industry knowledge and experience to ensure the technology would work for the industry. Its meat plant at Eltham, Taranaki, championed the technology, ran trials and provided feedback on its performance, as well as developing the systems that allowed its seamless introduction into meat plants.

Development in the early stages was assisted by three government funding grants for innovative manufacturing.

At the heart of the scanner is Dual Energy x-ray Absorptiometry, or DEXA technology, which was already used for medical applications such as measuring bone density. GNS Science developed software so the x-ray data could be used to measure fat and lean tissue instead of bone.

Meatvision licensed the technology to multi-national company Smiths Heimann (now Smiths Detection) which had experience in selling new technology in diverse markets.

Smiths Heimann sold the technology to Mettler Toledo which is now selling the application through a range of fat analysis systems called Eagle FA which is engineered, marketed, sold, and serviced through its Eagle Product Inspection subsidiary.

Today there are numerous scanners operating in Australian and New Zealand meat plants, and the Eagle FA scanning systems are also being used in a dozen countries including the United States, Ireland, Germany, Mexico, Australia, Uruguay, United Kingdom, and Canada.

Until the recent sale, Meatvision was earning royalty payments with every new machine sold.

To assist Mettler Toledo and Eagle Product Inspection further develop the technology for a wider range of applications, Meatvision has sold its intellectual property in the technology.

Head of the materials division at GNS Science, Joe Manning, says the Eagle FA scanner is a classic story of a smart New Zealand invention that is being used all over the world.

“It has been a great example of researchers, government funding, and industry working together,” he said.

“It has been earning royalties for New Zealand for more than a decade as well as boosting productivity and profitability for
the meat industry, and it will continue to do the latter into the future.”


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