C2Sense – An Innovative Low-Cost with High Accuracy and Sensitivity Sensors could reduce Food Waste

How much of the food produced around the world is thrown out each year? It’s probably more than you think. Experts typically differentiate between food “loss” that happens in the supply chain and food “waste” that happens at the retail and consumer levels.

The developed nations waste an awful lot of food, often while it’s still suitable for human consumption – much more than developing countries. According to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, “the per capita food waste by consumers in Europe and North America is 95-115 kg/year, while this figure in Sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia is only 6-11 kg/year.”

In order to reduce food waste around the world, a Cambridge startup called C2Sense is developing disruptive gas sensing technologies based on research at MIT.   

Image credit: C2Sense  

These sensors are ethylene and biogenic amines that can monitor fruit ripeness and meat/fish/poultry freshness at all stages of the supply chain. This new cost-effective sensing system will help improve food quality and address the problem of waste by allowing growers, shippers, distributors, retailers and consumers to make dynamic decisions to reduce waste at every stage. The development of C2Sense’s technology was supported by the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation. 

How does it work?  

Working principle of the sensor chip: Carbon nanotubes and a selector (2) are deposited between two electrodes (1). A voltage is applied (3) and the current (4) is measured. When the analyte is present, the current changes.  

Image credit: C2Sense  

C2Sense Sensors are chemiresistors – they contain a sensing material which changes resistance based on the concentration of an analyte. The sensors represent the simplest imaginable architecture and as a result can be produced at the lowest possible cost and can be integrated easily into any existing systems.  

Video credit: C2Sense  

The above presentation is given by C2Sense’s CTO Jan Schnorr at Deshpande Center IdeaStream 2014 gives a brief overview of these innovative sensors and motivation to develop sensing solutions for food and agriculture.  

As published in the BetaBoston, C2Sense was among the latest cohort of startups inducted into Breakout Labs, a division of noted venture capitalist Peter Thiel’s organization that funds high-tech startups. C2Sense will receive $350,000 and access to a who’s who list of investors, said Hemai Parthasarathy, scientific director of Breakout Labs.  

“C2Sense fits with everything we’re looking for in Breakout Labs,” said Parthasarathy. Typical awardees are usually looking to commercialize a future-facing invention that has yet to find a market, and is therefore likely to be passed over by other investors. MIT chemistry professor Timothy Swager and student Jan Schnorr founded the company last year to commercialize a way to convert smells into an electric signal.  

C2Sense has raised a total of $1.5 million from angel investors, including the latest top up from Breakout Labs, based in San Francisco. Schnorr said that the company has developed a prototype device and field tested it. The plan is to have a product on the market by 2017. (Source: C2Sense)


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