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SwissDeCode's new test further empowers food safety

26.02.2018 17:05

SwissDeCode has launched the world’s first portable, rapid DNA test to prevent food adulteration with vegetal ingredients and detect the presence of plant-derived allergens, an important food security and quality issue. Startupticker had the opportunity to contact the management of the company based at the Ateliers de Renens to learn more about their latest product and plans.

For Swiss startup SwissDeCode, it’s all about empowering food safety. The company just announced the commercialization of the DNAFoil line: the world’s first portable, completely self-administered DNA test, a solution that empowers food manufacturing staff to confirm supply chain integrity in 30 minutes with no disruption to existing workflows. The company founded by Brij Sahi and Gianpaolo Rando launched in September its first product, the DNAFoil Pork for the on-site, real-time benefit of halal and kosher supply chains. With their new DNAFoil Vegetal, SwissDeCode is now raising the bar. Their scientists demonstrated on-site detection not only of single species (i.e. pork) but also of families of DNAs (i.e. various plants).

Speaking of uses cases, Gianpaolo Rando, SwissDeCode’s CTO and co-founder, explains that the dairy industry has a strong incentive to use DNAFoil Vegetal. A first use case is the screening of raw materials. Some international dairy companies import milk from countries where fraud is a risk factor. Milk can be diluted with cheaper vegetal material (i.e. soy proteins, vegetal fat, flour thickeners) to increase its price. When adulterated raw materials are introduced in some transformation processes, the final product may not achieve the desired quality standards.

Any player that is investing in clean, aseptic manufacturing lines to release final products in shorter times is concerned today. To achieve operational excellence, the quality of raw materials is of paramount importance. Contaminations happen. SwissDeCode’s system provides the power to divert raw materials into processes where potential contaminants are not affecting final product quality and compliance. In this context, DNAFoil is an operational risk mitigator.

Some of these risks have also a food safety facet. For Gianpaolo Rando, the last baby milk recall caused by undesired Salmonella into a drying tower, is a case that helps understand the pressure that the industry is facing to control the hygiene of its manufacturing lines. In case of adulteration, the origin, traceability, integrity and safety certificate of the milk adulterants are unknown. Undeclared soy proteins may be a trojan horse for more subtle hazards. This is a risk factor that SwissDeCode can help control.

Unfortunately, some consumers face additional risks. Vegetal material can harm allergic consumers. Clean labels are booming in the dairy industry and if both white and fruit yoghurts are produced in the same manufacturing line, potential allergens like nuts, strawberries, soy and other vegetal additives must be tested. “Like in the Lord of the Rings, our DNAFoil Vegetal is a ‘ring to rule them all’ that can be used immediately after the washing steps to verify the cleaning.” explains Gianpaolo Rando.

First Pork DNA test is a success
Last September, the foodtech startup launched its Pork DNA test, a world's first. The company registered international sales and their first production batch is now entirely shipped. DNAFoil is an ambitious product: the company claims results in 30 minutes that any factory staff can administer without instrumentation. The DNAFoil Pork Early Access Program is offered to verify these claims. Food has various formulations and matrices: some are not compatible with standard DNA analyses. Their customers are adding a bit of pork meat into their formulation to verify if DNAFoil is a viable solution. When they are persuaded, they ask SwissDeCode to customise DNAFoil to their specific needs. The company initiated a virtuous circle where customers tell theim their pain points and they receive upfront revenue to develop specific solutions that will be their future cash cows. This is an extremely lucky position to be for a start-up.

Furthermore, Gianpaolo Rando explains that his company serves an industry in which "Right First Time" is one of the most important performance indicators, meaning they serve their "First customers First". SwissDecode existing customers can already order DNAFoil Vegetal with priority access. After their orders are processed, the startup will open DNAFoil Vegetal to new customers. The company’s product roadmap is just at the beginning. SwissDeCode is going announce new product releases every quarter.

Towards an innovative and focused future
Although SwissDeCode is among  the ‘12 firms to watch in 2018’ according to Food Quality News, the startup's CTO explains that the food industry is very fragmented. The company’s focus today is to meet strategic partners that can help them to become market leaders in specific sectors. The company is also scouting the best talents to sustain its growth.

In Q2, SwissDeCode plans to seek external funding to support their digitization and IOT strategy. Their customers have asked them to create a new digital solution that reduces the whole process into a single step storing the result in the cloud. Potentially using blockchain technology, the startup will issue certificates that can be shared between all parties along the food supply chain, from farm to fork. This is an innovative development, made possible by the simplicity of the original DNAFoil solution.

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