Handheld scanner shows what’s really in our food!

* This post is inspired from an original article in Danish by Liv Bjerg Lillevang, published on Ingeniøren.dk, 2 January 2017. The English adaptation has the author’s permission for posting *
Consumers are becoming choosier about what they put in their mouths. For some it is a lifestyle choice. For others it is a question of health. And for a few it’s a matter of life or death.

Now Canada’s Tellspec puts them in control. Tellspec’s handheld scanner analyzes food and in a few seconds downloads a detailed analysis directly to your smartphone. You can see right away if your bread contains gluten, or how much fat is really in that “healthy” salad.

Tellspec is one of the three 2016 winners of the Danish-based Water Air Food Awards (WAFA), based on an expert selection committee’s recommendations and  crowd voting on the WAFA website. The Expert Selection Committee emphasizes the technology’s potential: “With food shortages looming, the scanner’s ability to assess quality can reduce waste regardless of ‘best before’ dates. It can also put pressure on the food industry to guarantee their products.” WAFA President Tina Lindgreen comments: “Tellspec has great potential. The technology is scalable, so that ordinary people can afford to use it, and thereby have an impact on food safety.” And thousands of voters worldwide agree!

Food in the Cloud
On her visit to Aarhus, where Tellspec is opening its European office, CEO Isabell Hoffmann explains how the three-part technology works: “First is the scanner. It is a spectrometer that measures in the near infrared spectrum between 900 and 1,700 nanometers. Next is the cloud, where our servers run 242 parallel algorithms to compare the food content with known data. (The data is constantly upgraded.) Finally, a smartphone downloads the results within seconds.”

A Multipurpose Tool
While the technology benefits everyone, it can be vital to people suffering from food allergies and diabetes. It can uncover traces of nuts, eggs and milk in ready-made foods, as well as chemical residues in fruit and vegetables. It can even tell  how old meat is. “With the technology we have given consumers a chance to make the right choice when choosing foods,”

Hoffmann explains that Tellspec app serves everyone who has an interest in food quality, whether consumers, producers, retailers, or even researchers. “Our third app caters to researchers and universities. Scientists can use the scanner to collect spectra in a reliable format after the researchers’ own calibrations.”. Already universities are using the scanner for various purposes, like determining plants’ fluid balance to pick the right time for harvest.

Fighting Food Fraud
Tellspec data also enables scientists to study possible correlations between cancer and the food consumption patterns in specific areas. With the upcoming Danish launch, Denmark in particular stands to benefit!

“We are going to have much greater impact on food producers’ understanding of health, not only from governments but also from consumers. For despite the World Health Organization’s  recommendations for sugar and fat content in finished products, it is difficult to know if the manufacturers effectively comply with the recommendations, “says Hoffman. With Tellspec, for example, consumers can detect when corn syrup is substituted for sugar and put pressure on manufacturers to use healthy ingredients.

Learn more about Tellspec here!

Raised Hand Pumps Save Lives in India

The problem

Floods are a recurrent problem in Uttar Pradesh, India. The result of torrential rainfall, typhoons, and broken dams during each rainy season, they often cause humanitarian emergencies: destroying houses, washing away land, and interrupting regular medical services. Silt swept downstream impacts the ecosystem and damages crops. It also endangers people’s health as they are obliged to drink the same muddy water they use as an open air toilet. Whole communities have to flee flooded areas; after abandoning their belongings, tools, and livestock, they have no means to earn a living.

The solution

Sahbhagi Shikshan Kendra (SSK) is a participatory learning organisation which empowers communities through building capacity for self-governance. Among other accomplishments, SSK has developed a simple, affordable, innovative solution to ensure access to potable water in flooded communities. Before this breakthrough initiative, Ghaghara River communities near the Nepal border, for example, would suffer devastating annual floods affecting 40-50,000 people in 209 villages.

Standard hand pumps get submerged under floodwaters, eliminating villages’ source of safe drinking water. After a massively destructive flood in 2007, SSK and other organizations set to think of ways to ensure local communities continued to have clean drinking water and flood-resistant toilets during emergencies.

Replicability around the globe

In 2008, SSK, with the support of Malteser International and the European Commission, installed 30 new hand pumps with raised platforms and proper drainage systems. Their platform level was based on the level of the last flood; the main structure was built of cement, providing structural stability and flood resistance. Later improvements have included stairs and railings to prevent falls. The space required has also been reduced. Their sturdy structures also allow locals to moor boats when they come to fetch water for their homes. And very importantly, their simple design now allows local communities to maintain and repair them independently.

The raised hand pumps have functioned effectively since 2008, providing a constant supply of clean water to flooded areas. They  have also helped to reduce waterborne diseases significantly during floods. As a result of their success, the UNDP and government agencies have introduced raised hand pumps into their programmes. Their use keeps on expanding.

The simple technology is easily replicable in other flood-prone areas around the globe.

Green Enterprise in India, Good for People, Good for Business


A Double Challenge

Mr. Ramesh Kumar Nibhoria is concerned with three major problems in rural India. First, fossil fuels in kitchens and small industries cause a number of environmental and health problems. Second, they emit high levels of CO2. Burning post-harvest field residues produces smoke, harming both the environment and people in the area. Cutting wood for fuel depletes the forests. Third, lack of employment opportunities pushes rural youth to the cities, depriving the countryside of future entrepreneurs and threatening it with economic stagnation.

Green entrepreneurship

Mr. Nibhoria has adopted an entrepreneurial approach to both problems. Since 1990, he has been working in the area of biomass to energy conversion, striving to find sustainable green energy alternatives to fossil fuels in kitchens and micro industries. In 1999 he founded Nishant Bioenergy P Ltd (NBPL) to produce biomass pellet manufacturing plants and commercial stoves.

The first stove model, the Biomass Briquette Stove (Sanjha Chulha) had emission and heat control issues. The NBPL team continued innovating. In 2010 the company started developing biomass fuel pellet technology; by 2014 they had mastered the technology.  NBPL’s workshop now manufactures small biomass pellet plants and pellet-fueled stoves. The smoke-free stoves, of industry standard design and performance, are suitable for commercial heating, cooking, and boiling. Operating costs benefit rural users, as biofuel costs less than fossil fuels.

NBPL has started franchising its products and services under the Green Enterprise (GE) name. It markets a key-in-hand operation with exclusive retail rights to a defined region. NBPL mentors the franchisee throughout the process of setting up the business: biomass pellet making; pellet stove installation, and troubleshooting. After that, the franchisee is fully equipped to operate the business independently.

Promising Results

Environmentally, GE is a winner, providing clean, environmentally-friendly service at competitive cost. Its benefits to users are clear.

Economically, the benefits are also clear. Within rural communities, local residents now find employment in each franchise’s pellet factory. The franchise has exclusive rights to supply fuel pellets for all pellet stoves in its franchise area. (The pellet stoves are provided to consumers free of cost, a powerful marketing tool.)

International Possibilities

So far, GE has self-financed, operating frugally and marketing online through social media. It is now ready for scale up, through investment and grants, to a bigger factory and training centre to service thousands of small enterprises.  
NBPL envisions huge possibilities to replicate the GE franchise throughout Asia and Africa.

TellSpec: Food Security in Consumer’s Hands


The problem

Global competition has driven some suppliers to replace advertised food ingredients with cheaper and sometimes dangerous substitutes. A well-known example of this occurred in 2008, where it was discovered that milk in China had been contaminated with melamine, an industrial chemical and known carcinogen that causes kidney failure. The Melamine incident affected 300,000 infants and young children, with six reported deaths. A more recent example occurred in 2015, when the Canadian government issued a warning regarding the high levels of aflatoxin in corn. Despite recognizing aflatoxin as carcinogen and a serious health risk, most food safety regulators have set a tolerance for aflatoxin as opposed to an absolute ban.

Consumers in rich and poor countries alike lack a quick, cheap and reliable way to analyze the food offered to them. Food-testing labs typically serve for large food manufacturers, and their results are not publicly available. Information on food labels may not be accurate or complete.

Technology to the Rescue

TellSpec, a Canadian-based data company, has developed an affordable, handheld food scanner. This simple solution was designed to provide the most relevant, useful and accurate information about the food we eat. The technology is a three-part system:  a pocket-sized scanner, a cloud-based analysis engine, and a mobile application. At a molecular level, the system identifies ingredients, food quality, calories, macronutrients, and allergens. At a glance, the consumer can now determine the authenticity, safety and nutritional value of the products on sale. It also gives the user knowledge about their health in relation to the food they consume.

On a Mission

Everyone at Tellspec believes in the company’s mission for a world of clean food. Its overriding purpose is to put the scanners in consumers’ hands, not just grow a business. Most employees have given long hours without pay to the project. Some have even left other ventures to work for the firm, whose culture features strong respect among all team members. The company has currently 16 employees across North America, Europe and Asia, 6 volunteer advisors, and over 30 food testers across all continents.

Power to the People

TellSpec’s food scanning solution literally brings food testing in the hands of the consumer. Many food-testing labs exist, but they typically perform detection for large food manufacturing groups and their results are not publicly available. Food labels can give us some information, but they are not always accurate, and some ingredients may not be reported.

TellSpec’s dedicated team has made this initiative sustainable. The scanner technology will be integrated into appliances and phones within the next 5 years. Over time, more consumers, restaurants, and supermarkets will realize its benefits. The WAF Award can give TellSpec the visibility needed to kickstart a consumer food revolution.

Bring Them to the World – the Journey to the 2016 WAF Awards Continues. . . .

The call for applications to the 2016 WAF Awards is now closed. Thank you to all the applicants from around the globe — the competition for the best sustainable initiative continues!

On April 22, we celebrated Earth Day by launching the call for applications to the 4th edition of ‘awards in excellence’ for water, air and food security. Through our global “Bring Them to the World” campaign, we invited everyone to join in and nominate projects that secure these basic needs for all.

empowermentThe goal was to identify sustainable solutions and success stories from all over the world, particularly in remote areas — following the idea that innovation can be anywhere, and sustainable local initiatives can be replicated to solve big problems. We invited individuals and organisations who are developing projects with a proven track of success to apply and bring forward their sustainable water, air or food innovative solutions.

Following the campaign, we have received 172 applications from Africa, Asia, America, Europe and Oceania — the highest number of applications since the launch of the WAF Awards in 2008. Most applications feature water and food solutions, but we are pleased to have received initiatives in clean air security: a new category introduced this year. A significant number of projects come from countries in Africa and Asia, highlighting outstanding efforts to help communities in some of the areas most affected by hunger or lack of access to clean water or air.


WAFA Selection Committee of sustainability has chosen a shortlist of 9 certified projectsWe have featured their stories on our blog and social media in a global voting campaign to raise awareness about the impact their are making in their communities.

The voting campaign ended on October 9, and the 3 most popular projects have been declared WAF Awards 2016 winners. The projects, run by The KJB Foundation, Tellspec, and Nishant Bioenergy will be celebrated at the WAF Awards Ceremony taking place at the end of this year in Beijing, China.

June 26, New Deadline for Applying to the WAF Awards

WAFA has extended the period for receiving applications to the 4th edition of the Humanitarian Water Air Food Awards to June 26, 2016.

If you are implementing sustainable solutions that bring clean water, air, or food to communities in need, and have a proven track of results of at least 2 years, we invite you to apply to the WAF Awards to get expert certification and global visibility.

Sharing solutions that work

It is WAFA’s mission to be a platform for certifying and sharing solutions that are proven to work, and that can be replicated to achieve global sustainable development goals like ending hunger and bringing clean water and sanitation to all. Individuals and organisations who meet the sustainability criteria are invited to apply to the Awards by June 26.

Submitted applications are evaluated by a panel of experts that certify the quality of the projects before opening them to public voting for the selection of the finalists.

The best projects, as selected by the committee and the public, participate in the annual Awards ceremony, a global event that offers them exposure and opportunities to connect to potential partners and sponsors. The event location varies every year, with China and Australia currently being evaluated to host this year’s event, which is scheduled for late fall.

New category- clean air projects3 Before Waste

This year, WAFA introduces a new category for clean air initiatives. Air pollution is a major planetary challenge, causing 3.2 million deaths a year worldwide, 65% of which are in Asia, and 25% in India. It is imperative that replicable solutions are promoted, and we encourage anyone running clean air initiatives to apply to the WAF Awards and make them visible to the world.

WAF Youth Awards

The is the second edition of the WAF Youth Awards, founded by global environmental activist Ayrton Cable. Youth finalists and winners of last year proved there is no age limit for innovative sustainability. This year too, we invite school initiatives around the world dedicated to promoting water, air and food solutions to apply before June 26.


Food for people, food for thought: The Prem Rawat Foundation, WAFA’s role model

WAFA’s role models of sustainability are its patrons and the continuous work they do for making this world a better place. Since 2006, The Prem Rawat Foundation serves 100,000 hot meals to children and ailing adults in India, Nepal and Ghana, through its Food for People Program (FPP). 

WAFA patron Prem Rawat travels the world speaking to people about peace. He often uses food and water allegories to talk about how global change can come along. In his recent talk in Palermo, he reminded everyone how achieving peace starts with finding the peace within: “Change comes from within. Remember the good and bad wolves fighting inside you. Which one will win? The one you feed!”… “The rain does not come down all at once, but drop by drop. You are the drop.”

Food and peace

Feeding the mind and feeding the body go hand in hand. You cannot talk about peace on an empty stomach. The idea of the Food for People Program emerged in 2003, when Prem Rawat spoke in Jharkhand, one of the poorest regions of his native country, India. Of the 32,000 villages, only a quarter have practicable roads, and even less have electricity. The mortality rate of children under 5 was twice as high as in the rest of India, and adults could often not work to support their families due to poverty and chronic hunger.

The idea of the FFP program was built on the simple vision to cover the basic needs that would allow communities to rebuild and sustain themselves. The first facility opened in 2006 in Bantoli, India, providing warm meals for children and infirm adults, while empowering and educating the local community to get involved. The solutions proved to have an immense success, reversing the desperate economic situation that teared the communities apart. Because of the program, adults are now able to go back work and support their families. Children returned to school, and young adults are involved in perpetuating the program, which also reduced the crime rate in the area and restored a sense of safety.

The program has since been successfully replicated in Nepal and Ghana.

How you can help

The Food for People program is a model for the sustainable initiatives and projects that WAFA aims to make visible each year, through the WAFA Awards. It empowers and educates communities to be self-sustainable.

You can read more about the FFP and support the program here. You can also contribute by sharing our call for applications, and helping us find similar initiatives in water, air and food security than can be replicated to bring about global change.

WAFA patron and representatives meet in Jordan

President Tina Lindgreen and representative for Italy Dr. Silvia Ficini (MD) are currently visiting Jordan, at the invitation of WAFA patron HRH Princess Basma bint Ali of Jordan, to identify potential candidates to the 2016 WAF Awards and new opportunities for collaboration.
The Royal Botanical GardenRGB Jordan

The visit included a private tour of the Royal Botanical Garden of Jordan (RBG). Founded by HRH Princess Basma bint Ali, the RBG is a model of sustainability and an inspiration for the kind of initiatives WAFA seeks to promote.

Established in 2005, the garden is a nonprofit organisation aiming to preserve and restore the natural ecosystems of Jordan. It is also a giant demonstration site of the synergic relationship between man and nature and showcases environmentally compatible solutions of sustainable living that can be replicated by the average Jordanian.



One example are the Eco-Domes, a unique and ecological way of building with earth. Developed based on research on local natural construction materials, Eco-Domes are a proof earth-based construction is viable and sustainable. They are energy efficient, weather tight, and rock solid with a minimum use of concrete.



Petra, the ancient water management pioneer ec3df063-f6d0-4c16-9a36-d5f285b07c3d

The visit continued to the historical city of Petra, an invaluable cultural heritage included by UNESCO into the 7 New Wonders of the World in 2007. Established 3 centuries BC, Petra is famous for the rose colour of the stone in which it is carved. Behind its beauty, city was an ancient model of sustainability. Dams, cisterns, water conduits and other innovations controlled the floods in the area and made the Rose City’s economy thrive — an oasis in the desert.


 Tomb carved in stone — one of the many architectural sites Petra

Visit at the UN Relief and Work Agency

WAFA representatives also visited the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Amman. Tina Lindgreen and UNRWA public Information officer, Ms. Anwar Abu-Sakieneh, agreed on a collaboration to identify WAF Awards candidates from the Camp Improvement Programmes of “urban planning”, water harvesting and sustainable energy, and “environmental-health infrastructure”. UNRWA provides assistance and protection of 5 million Palestinian refugees — 1.5 million of which are camped in Jordan.


The Royal Botanical Garden of Jordan http://royalbotanicgarden.org/

UN Relief and Work Agency http://www.unrwa.org/

WAFA’s Call to Action: Nominate Exceptional Pioneers to the 2016 WAF Awards

On Earth Day April 22, WAFA launched a call to action for people around the globe to nominate candidates to the 2016 Water Air Food Awards. Launched on social media with the hashtag #bringthemtotheworld, the campaign invites people to discover and nominate pioneers who make sustainable goals a reality every day.

Global change starts locally, and leaders in water, air and food security can come from anywhere. They are often in remote locations, unknown to the world, and do not fit the mainstream media frame of leadership and empowerment. Together, we can find these exceptional individuals who run sustainable projects that secure the basic needs to most vulnerable communities. We can bring them to the world, so their solutions can change the lives of many.

 “There is a need to spread the good solutions for water, air, and food security, and there is a need to convey a message of hope. They have an innovation, they are doing important work, and have solutions for a much more sustainable way of living, and it is very important that they share their knowledge with other people around the world”, says WAFA founder Tina Lindgreen.

WAFA invites applications from individuals or organisations running sustainable projects anywhere in the world with proven result for at least 2 years. Anyone can nominate exceptional pioneers in the areas of water, air and food security by following the link on the website: wafaward.org/call-to-action. The deadline for applying or nominating candidates is June 12.

The campaign can be followed on the WAFA website and social media channels. Applicants to the WAF Awards will get exposure and the possibility to connect to opportunities that help scale their initiatives.

 Tina Lindgreen: “We are inviting everyone to nominate their favourite project. Sharing sustainable solutions is something everyone can benefit from, learning from good practices and be inspired. It’s going to give people hope”.