Despite bread being a staple of the European diet for millennia,
determining the grain quality of its ingredients is still
not an exact science. Taste and personal preferences aside,
the quality of the bread we eat can be frustratingly difficult
to establish. A quality control team can be effective at eliminating
substandard wheat grains, for example, based on visual defects;
it is quite a different story, however, to determine internal
composition. Two European small and medium-sized enterprises
(SMEs) have come together in a Eureka project to develop technology
for an improved grain-sorting system using infrared light
to analyse grain quality.
quality can vary within a single plant, not to
mention an entire field.
The quality of the bread we eat is dependent on the type
of kernels used to make it. And while much research has been
dedicated to developing improved starches and such, quality
can still vary widely within a single plant. With ever-increased
attention being given to food quality, BoMill and Cimbria
Heid of Sweden and Austria respectively, teamed up to develop
novel solutions for determining grain quality.
“The process of sorting grains by hand is very tiresome
and inefficient, so we devised machines to do it automatically,”
says Bo Löfqvist, CEO of BoMill.
Though sophisticated sorting technology exists, commonly it
is most effective only for size, colour or density. “They
are effective to a certain extent,” says Mr Löfqvist,
“but there are still other characteristics, of wheat
grains, for example, that cannot be detected by any of these
methods and that nevertheless have an important impact on
Together, the two small European firms, under the auspices
of a EUREKA grant, have developed the TRIQ SORTING system,
providing end users with more sophisticated information to improve
the quality of their product.
“We know that there are qualitative differences between
individual grains of wheat,” he explains. “Even
on a single wheat plant, which produces a maximum of about
100 grains, there are significant qualitative differences
between the individual grains. Some of the grains will be
better suited to biscuit production, for example. Others will
make better bread. A third type will be best for producing
The innovative system has the ability to analyse individual
grains thanks to new technology developed during the project.
“The TRIQ SORTING system involves capturing individual
particles, in this case wheat grains, in little pockets on
the inside surface of a specially equipped cylinder, sort
of like the drum of a clothes washing machine,” says
Each grain is treated with infrared light and the reflections
are recorded with a specially designed detector. Each recording
is then analysed to determine grain quality. The consortium
partners report that the new technology is capable of sorting
two billion wheat grains per hour, improving on their prototype
by a factor of 500.
The TRIQ SORTING project is moving on to further testing,
and ultimately full-scale commercialisation.