Ever wondered exactly which microscopic bugs and beasts might have set up camp on your kitchen surfaces? Well, now you can find out! And that’s all thanks to Pioneers Challenge finalists SBT Aqua, a Copenhagen-based startup that’s revolutionising the world of bacterial testing with its instant-results technology.
While you could use it in your kitchen (do you really want to know, though?), the real target for SBT Aqua is industry. If you’re running a food production facility, the last thing you want is to have to recall a product. That can cost millions – not to mention being a scandalous waste. How do you avoid recalls? Squeaky-clean surfaces throughout the production facility are a good place to start.
Companies know this, of course, but the current state of affairs presents a time-lag problem. You can test your surfaces for bacteria every second if you like, but you’ll have to send your samples to a lab for testing each time. It can be a matter of days before you get those results. And by that time, enough food has gone out the door to feed an entire summer camp. Under this traditional process, it’s usually too late by the time you discover a problem.
CEO Gustav Erik Sands outlined these industry problems concisely when he pitched at Pioneers’17. He then went on to offer the SBT Aqua solution: a system that gives results in a matter of minutes. That’s all thanks to SBT’s impedance flow cytometry (IFC) technology, which can electrically detect and differentiate bacteria.
Want to test a surface? All you need is SBT’s BactoProbe Surface swab, and the SBT BactoBox. The BactoBox is a clever little all-in-one laboratory (at 18cm x 18cm x 18cm, it’s small) that will handle the sample and give the results. The box also works with BactoProbe Liquid, which – as the name suggests – takes samples of liquids to subsequently be tested.
The latter is important for the other part of SBT Aqua’s offering, namely the validation of Clean-In-Place effectiveness. That basically refers to the cleaning processes for hard-to-reach places like pipes and filters, which are typically rinsed out with a cleaning agent. However, you can’t reach these places for a surface test to swab whether it’s actually clean afterwards. Hence testing the rinse water, which Skands says tells the story of how things are doing inside the pipe. The ability to test water quickly also opens up new possibilities for companies to recycle water safely. And that has both clear cost and environmental benefits.
The SBT Aqua gang of three is a young one – their idea first came to life as a university project in 2013. For Skands, running this startup is actually his first job. Could it turn out to be his dream job too? The signs so far are good, if the reaction of the judges at Pioneers’17 is anything to go by.
SBT Aqua has chosen a smart area to work in, because it’s not subject to heavy regulation like the products actually being produced. And while the food industry is the sales focus for now, the potential for growth in the health and pharmaceutical industries is clear for all to see…without a microscope!