Honors Gallery

Online imaging for real-time wholesomeness inspection in poultry processing Mid-Atlantic

Award: Excellence in Technology Transfer

Year: 2015

Award Type:



Food safety is a public concern and a priority of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A cumulative team effort in the Environmental Microbial and Food Safety Laboratory (EMFSL) has resulted in the licensing of an imaging technology with the potential to make food consumed by the public more wholesome and safer to eat. This technology is a method and system that allows automated wholesomeness inspection of chicken carcasses during processing.

Currently, chicken carcasses are processed at a rate of 140 per minute, and every carcass must be examined by a human inspector. Up to 4 inspectors may work on a single processing line since inspectors work at a maximum speed
of 35 birds per minute. The licensed technology has the potential to reduce and redistribute the human workload, and has been demonstrated effectively at 140 birds per minute. The company that licensed this technology, Headwall Photonics, Inc., has developed a commercial imaging platform that has been used for poultry wholesomeness classification. This platform supports real-time, hyperspectral, line-scan imaging of any commodity transported by a conveyor system, and can be used to address other food and agricultural processing problems, including grading of fruits and vegetables.

This technology is a method and system that allows automated wholesomeness inspection of chicken carcasses during processing.

The EMFSL team initially focused on developing the technology?including system design and integration, algorithm development, and implementation for real-time inspection?as an application of their pioneering hyperspectral imaging research for food safety. However, their efforts grew to include outreach and networking to kindle interest in the new system as well as business connections between food processors and imaging technology companies. Collaborations with processors and equipment providers in the poultry industry helped them to assess the poultry industry?s needs, limitations and interest, and to conduct in-plant tests of the technology. Collaborations with spectral imaging technology partner Headwall Photonics, Inc., tailored system adaptation for industrial use in poultry processing.

The work involved numerous collaborators and post-doctoral researchers, and resulted in one Cooperative Research and Development Agreement and two issued patents. In April 2014, the patent was licensed by Headwall Photonics, Inc., which is now negotiating with poultry processors for commercial use of the technology.