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!

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.


Spring has sprung, and all this new growth has been sprouting enthusiasm at WAFA headquarters.  All sorts of birth is happening . . . new volunteers have joined our group.  We now have Marina Kahle in research and applications, Eva Elise Kraus in research and applications, David Ram in human resources, Jannik Meier Sørensen in social media, Ancuta Gabriela Tarta in research and applications, and Camilla Warmedinger in journalism. Our team is great — so many brilliant people here who want nothing more to do than to bring good news to the world and share the positive side of environmental journalism in water, air, and food.

We are growing.  The excitement is building.  Our virtual offices are buzzing with all the brainstorming going on.  We are soon launching our new and improved Web site. And, of course, it is that time of year again!  WAFA is about to launch the Call for Applications for the spectacular 2016 Awards Event.

So get ready.  Start spreading the news that we are almost ready to hear from all those social entrepreneurs, groups, and people everywhere, who are making incredible changes for the less fortunate ones needing help with accessible clean water, breathable clean air, and nourishing good food.

Catch our excitement and stay tuned.  You’ll be the first to hear the call for open applications!

Slow-Motion Catastrophe in Brazil

On November 5, a mine burst in Brazil, sweeping away the town of Bento Rodrigues. 17 people are dead, and two remain missing. 50 million metres of red mud have slithered 800 km. down the Rio Doce River, tainting drinking water for hundreds of thousands of residents, killing aquatic life, and threatening Atlantic coastal fisheries. The President of Brazil’s environmental agency said, “We have thousands of hectares of protected areas destroyed and the total extinction of all biodiversity along this stretch of the river.” The UN has stated the tailings are toxic — a claim the companies deny.  At the same time, Vale has warned it will take “several years” for the Rio Doce to recover. The Earth Institute predicts 15 to 20 years. Other estimates range from five months to never.

The chief executives of Vale and BHP have offered apologies and insist they will honour their obligations. In a December 21 update, BHP confirmed that a New York-based law firm and Latin American specialist will lead an “external’’ investigation and make the findings public. The moves follow a Brazilian court ruling giving the companies 30 days to deposit 10 % of the $US5.5 billion into a fund for clean-up and compensation. Vale plans to appeal the decision; BHP states it has received no formal notice of the ruling. Samarco, the mine and dam operator, is a joint venture of Brazilian iron ore giant Vale and Anglo-Australian mining group BHP Billiton.

There may have been safety warnings about the dam. According to Brazil’s Deputy Attorney-General, “Vale and BHP were totally careless in preventing this.  They did not show a plan of action in case of disaster. They had no alarm system in place.”


Turenscape, SOIL and ENPHO- 3tie winners of 2015 WAF Award

2015 in Review

2015 has been quite the year!


In preparation for the WAF Award Event 2015, scheduled for Milan, WAFA volunteers held a fundraising event at the residence of the Italian Ambassador in Copenhagen. Over 60 guests attended from government, NGOs and interested organizations.

WAF Award Event 2015: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Then plans shifted on a dime, and the Award Event 2015 was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! The international and local teams worked tirelessly with spectacular results on October 22, 2015. Kuala Lumpur marks a transition for WAFA:

We now have an Asia chapter, based in Malaysia!

Because of each finalist’s unique qualities, our expert panel decided to award all three!

  • ENPHO’s entrepreneurial dynamism ensures water quality in rural Nepal;
  • SOIL’s affordable technology enables Haitian rural communities to manage their own hygiene,  ensure their water security, and restore their land’s productivity;
  • Turenscape’s ecological approach cleans polluted rivers and provides urban greenspace in China.

The Event inaugurated the WAF Youth Award, presented to Wyebank Secondary School in South Africa.

The Awards have expanded to include an Air category. The Water and Food Award is now the Water Air and Food Award (WAFA)! This addition could not be timelier, given the grim news from Indonesia and Beijing.


At the invitation of Turenscape’s founder, Dr. Yu Kongjian, WAFA President, Tina Lindgreen, visited China from November 3 to 11. Tina met decision-makers committed to sustainability, who are keen to host the WAFA 2016 Award Event in Beijing, in conjunction with Peking University’s high-profile Beijing Forum in early November 2016.


WAFA has been invited to submit a proposal to Viet Water 2016, an international conference in Hanoi in late November.


Let’s not forget COP21! Tina and WAFA volunteer Noé Levasseur attended the conference. Tina is convinced that many international organizations are willing to fund initiatives like WAFA, provided they see a credible organization on the ground. We’ve been on the ground for a while. Let’s make the cut!

“Abundance” by Ida Glad

“Abundance”, by Danish Artist Ida Glad, celebrates the 2015 WAF Award Finalists’ role in bringing clean water and nutritious food to the world’s children.

Ida says, “This mixed media painting is created with inks, acrylics, collage and digital editing. It reminds us of our good fortune in receiving Mother Earth’s most basic gifts: clean water and an amazing variety of delicious food. If we respect her bounty, she can continue to provide for us.

Abundance and humanity are the key concepts that inspire the painting. I painted children, for most of them are in touch with their humanity and have a unique way of admiring the natural magic all around us.”

You can buy the poster of this beautiful painting in two sizes: 30 x 40 cm. (US$16) or 45x 60 cm. (US$18), plus shipping, at our Online Store. All proceeds go to supporting WAFA’s work.

About Ida Glad:

“I am a visual artist and new entrepreneur, living with my daughter in the Danish countryside. I am very honoured to create this work for the WAF Award. It is a unique opportunity to support the amazing work of the WAF Award Finalists. I also see it as an avenue to combine some of my greatest passions: art, creativity, natural balance, and sustainability, as well as the challenges of providing clean water and healthy clean food for everyone.”

For more about Ida, please click here.