We love safe, high-quality food and drinks. Aside from our personal preferences, food quality is
about the taste, appearance, smell, and texture. Our eating and drinking experiences use all our
senses: the noise of crunchy bites, the aroma of memorable ingredients, and the color and snap of freshness. Consistency is key. Food and drink products should look, taste, smell and feel the
Grains are a vital ingredient in food and drink all around the world. The entire supply chain
requires an accurate and reliable understanding of the grains' properties. Seed companies are
developing new varieties to improve the crop production yield, maximum resistance to disease,
and extreme growing conditions. The process continues with logistics and trading to set the
correct commercial value through processing and packing to control quality, yield, and
compliance. In short, every step in the supply chain is vital - from the seed to the final product.
The grain supply chain uses several methods to get the grain properties information - predominantly a combination of analytical platforms to measure chemical composition such as moisture and protein. Test kits are also used for food safety to ensure grains are disease-free, allergen-free, and hazardous-materials-free. These analytical platforms are typically combined with manual operations such as a visual inspection to get the grain's quality and grade
The tests are done according to the formal standard or specifications that the seller and buyer
agree to follow. Test weight measures a pound per bushel, otherwise known as "the grain
density". These measurements predict the milling yield for wheat - the amount of flour produced.
Analytical platforms generate information on the chemical composition of grains. The type of
information varies depending on the grain types. Some of the information gained during the
● Higher moisture levels impact the commercial grain value, storage, and processing
● The protein content affects wheat milling, baking, and pasta production volume, taste, and
The requirement of the official system for results accuracy and repeatability limits the number of approved instruments. For example, only two approved manufacturers for official analysis of
moisture levels in the USA, Dickey-john and Perten. So, while many other manufacturers of
analytical platforms are used in the market, all with varying levels of capacity, accuracy, price,
and point of use, the results are not officially accepted.
Trained personnel perform a manual visual inspection to get the grain quality and grade information. The inspector takes a portion sample, a few tens of grams, and looks at each grain at the time to decide if it is sound (good) or damaged in any way - broken, heat damaged, or infected with fungus, for example. This process can take 20-30 minutes, with up to a 30% potential error. There is only one instrument in the official system for rice's visual inspection to analyze the level of broken kernels from FOSS Analytical Solutions. It was approved by USDA FGIS twenty-seven years ago, discontinued about ten years ago, and is no longer available.
Sampling is the standard method for visual inspection. The inspector takes a representative
sample from trucks, containers, railroads, and barges. For trucks carrying 20 metric tons (44,000
Lb.), the minimum sample size is 1 kilogram (2.2 lb.), divided into smaller portions for the
different visual inspection categories. The tests are done by federal, state, or private laboratories. In the USA, all exported grains are inspected by USDA FGIS (United States Department of
Agriculture, Federal Grain Inspection Service), official state laboratories, or private labs certified
The main challenge visual inspectors face is to provide accurate results by a subjective method to satisfy the buyer and the seller as it significantly impacts the commercial value of the grains. For example, for wheat, USDA-1 allows a maximum of 0.4% foreign materials. USDA-2 will allow a maximum of 0.2% grains with heat damage. Passing these levels in the samples will reduce the entire shipment grade and its commercial value.
Over the years, several companies have tried unsuccessfully to develop analytical solutions to
replace the human visual inspection, including DuPont's "Acurum" Grain Analyzer, Kett's "RN300"; and the Buhler's "TotalSense" mobile analyzer. In his book "Cereal Grains, Assessing and Managing Quality" Professor Colin Wrigley wrote, "Digital imaging devices have not been able to replace manual Visual Analysis". The variability of grains due to the source of the seeds, growing conditions, harvesting time, and storage make it impractical to build and maintain an analytical model for a moving target. In addition, the gatekeepers insist on a high level of accuracy and repeatability results to meet the official standard requirements. An internal resistance to change has played a role in the slow historical progress towards image-based analytical solutions.
In the last several years, the industry has realized the need for digital transformation to replace human visual inspection. First, to address the labor shortages and increased labor costs, followed by hot topics and global trends such as the world population growth, climate change and the effect on crop quality and yield, the increased awareness of quality and food safety, and the overall agriculture transformation to digital and automation. The one who owns the most relevant data will have a stronger position in the market.
Grains data adds value to the entire operation - from incoming inspection to paying for the
quality received, storage condition, processing quality and yield, and OEE (Overall Equipment
Effectiveness) to compliance with the buyer-seller agreed standard. Uploading the digital data to
an enterprise information system will provide the current operation status and trends and alert the inspectors and colleagues in cases of abnormal results.
Vibe Imaging Analytics is the developer and manufacturer of the QM3i Grain Analyzer used for
rice, wheat, and other grains and seeds. We serve customers in the global market, including
private, academia, non-profit, and governments, from crop science to grain trading and processing and food production. Customers use Vibe instruments for Breeding, Grading, Process
Control, and Food Safety. We live by a mission to support everyone with "Better & Safer Food".
a zoom meeting or demo.
By: Ron Hadar, Vibe Imaging Analytics