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"Our goal is to give customers the ability to conduct their own laboratory tests." - Steven Trowell, Founder and Managing Director of PPB Technology

World 16.04.2024
Source: The DairyNews
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Stephen Trowell, the founder and managing director of the Australian company PPB Technology, will speak at the Dairy Olympics, which will take place in May 2024 in Ankara, Turkey. Stephen is the author of a revolutionary solution for milk analysis: the Cybertongue® technology. For three decades, Stephen was a scientist at CSIRO, where he invented this technological platform. Cybertongue® provides results in minutes for the analysis of raw milk, a process that currently takes several days. In an interview with The DairyNews, Dr. Stephen discussed the features of his invention, the problems it solves in the dairy market, and the regions where it is available for purchase.
"Our goal is to give customers the ability to conduct their own laboratory tests." - Steven Trowell, Founder and Managing Director of PPB Technology
Dr. Stephen, could you tell us what your presentation at the Dairy Olympics will be about?

The topic of my presentation is "Storage Shelf Life Violations of Ultra-Pasteurized Milk and Ways to Prevent Them." This issue is widespread in many countries around the world. In my presentation, I will focus on bacterial proteases that limit the shelf life of long-life or ultra-pasteurized milk (UHT). I'll discuss how processing companies can measure these proteases in raw milk for the first time using biosensor technologies and what can be done to reduce or even eliminate them. This is the first example of a test conducted in our cyber system.

Why do you think this topic is important for milk processors?

This is an important issue for many milk processors worldwide. A good shelf life is the primary promise of ultra-pasteurized milk. Ideally, we would like the shelf life to reach twelve months at room temperature. But to achieve this goal, you need to start with the highest quality raw milk, which means measuring and controlling bacterial proteases, particularly the alkaline protease fr om Pseudomonas fluorescens. Because what is measured is what can be managed. If you don't do this, you may face difficulties accessing the market, see losses, price reductions, and even receive feedback that will cost you dearly. It's known that 1/6 of the world's milk production is lost before it reaches the consumer. This loss of production value is estimated at around $150 billion annually. Bacterial proteases contribute significantly to these losses and waste. For some companies, the lack of proper shelf life limits their market access and reduces profitability. An effective solution to the shelf life problem of ultra-pasteurized milk lies in controlling bacterial proteases. Our technology allows us to measure and manage these factors, which is crucial for milk processors. Without such control, serious problems arise, including limited market access, losses, price reductions, and risks of negative feedback. That's why we believe that developments in this area are extremely important and valuable to our audience.

Could you tell us more about your invention and startup?

We have developed the first practical solution for testing raw milk containing high levels of bacterial protease. The test is easy to use, and we provide customers with the information needed to interpret the results. This is just the first of many Cybertongue® tests conducted on-site, providing laboratory-quality results in minutes. Our goal is to provide customers with the means to conduct their own on-site laboratory tests within minutes. Our second-generation Cybertongue® system is based on the original CSIRO invention and provides best-in-class user experience with reliable and practical results. In our Cybertongue® test lineup, there is a sensitive and accurate lactose content test suitable for various products. The technology is based on highly sensitive and specific protein-based biosensors. PPB's technology combines nature's building blocks to create tools for accuracy and sensitivity. All tests are read on a single Cybertongue® device, making test execution and interpretation easier. Our Cybertongue® technological platform is protected by five patent families - issued and pending. Our company, PPB Technology, is ready to consider inquiries fr om potential customers interested in using this new diagnostic platform.

How did you come up with this idea?

Our attention was drawn to the complexity of measuring various chemical substances, including enzymes, in food products, including milk. Storage time violations of ultra-pasteurized milk due to residual bacterial protease, which has undergone thermal processing, are a serious problem for milk processors. Communication with representatives of the global dairy and food industry allowed us to understand that there is a need to provide milk processors and food producers with laboratory quality results within minutes. We began to wonder, "How could we make this process better and simpler than it is now?" We noticed a technology used only in laboratory research based on the use of proteins emitting blue and green light. Then the idea came: "What if we adapt and simplify this technology for use outside the laboratory? It could become a powerful tool." We asked ourselves, "What needs to be done to make laboratory work easier for non-laboratory staff?" This led to numerous steps and iterations. We saw that there was an unmet need in the market and that we had an effective solution to this problem.

Is there competition in the market? How do you deal with them?

We deliberately started with a test that actually has no competitors. At the moment, there is no test that comes close to what we can offer, so you either use our test or do without it. In the future, we will add, for example, tests for lactose and others, and our test will be better than others due to its technical features, which make it more accurate and easier to use. Then we will compete with existing companies on the market that use their own tests. But we plan to offer a unified system and device for performing all necessary tests, which will be extremely easy to use. Our test, device, and system have received several prestigious Australian design awards for their simplicity, and we also offer technical superiority. This is how we plan to compete with some of the global suppliers of food product tests.

How long have you been on the market?

We installed and sold our first device nine months ago, so you could say we've been on the market since then. Previously, we offered some services, but started selling real products nine months ago. Since then, we have sold several more devices, and their number continues to grow. The results we've achieved have been very positive. Recently, we visited our first client, and they were thrilled with the new opportunities we provided; in fact, we changed their entire raw milk flow management process. Thus, we helped them improve their system and get much more benefit from their product. Another customer expressed great satisfaction with being able to compare our technology with others, and ours turned out to be the best. Despite this being just the beginning for us, we see tremendous interest and receive very positive feedback from customers in Australia, as well as in New Zealand at this stage.

And for which regions is your device currently available?

Currently, our product is available for purchase only in Australia and New Zealand. However, we are currently working on expanding its availability worldwide. The reason I am attending the dairy summit in Ankara at the end of May is to get an idea of the market and raise awareness of our solution in Turkey, Central Asia, and Europe. Initially, we will sell directly, so if there are companies in this region interested in accessing our technology, they can contact us. In fact, we plan to visit some companies in Turkey that have expressed interest in our technology. We are going wh ere there is demand, although we cannot cover everything at once. However, ultimately, we aim to be represented everywhere. Wh ere we see high demand, we will make our technology available and work with early partners to help them implement it and create several demonstration sites. I am starting this process by engaging with potential clients at the Dairy Olympics, and I also plan to visit some Turkish dairy processors who have shown interest in our tests.

What is the cost of your device?

If you follow our recommendations and regularly use our test, the cost of its application will be only a tenth of a cent per liter of milk. This is a negligible amount that helps avoid serious and expensive problems, especially if you plan to export your products or enter foreign markets. Our test kits are supplied in packs of 50 tests priced at $19.95 per test. This test adds less than one-tenth of a cent to the cost of a liter of milk, which is a small price for improving the quality and shelf life of the product. The cost of the Cybertongue® device itself is $26,353 when purchased outright, but we offer a substantial discount with a contract to purchase reagents. The device requires minimal maintenance and is equipped with built-in check and calibration procedures. We provide a 5-year warranty on the device. To continue using the test, you simply need to purchase reagents. Thus, the cost for each test is less than $20, and one test can check up to 25,000 liters of milk. This offer is particularly relevant for medium and large dairy processing companies. Small companies can also benefit from this technology, but it is most significant for major players in the industry as it helps protect valuable resources and optimize production processes.

What is the basis for such pricing?

One reason for the high cost is the use of high-quality detectors from Japan, produced by only one company in the world, as well as special filters from the USA. In addition, a significant amount of electronic equipment and software is required. Creating such a system is a complex task, but for the user, its use is very simple. Our mission in this startup is to create a world-leading on-site food testing system, and as I mentioned earlier, we have been awarded several very prestigious awards for our achievements. The problem we solve involves creating proteins that emit light. We have a specially designed chemical composition and modern equipment for light detection. If we look at the global market volume for dairy product testing, it already amounts to $7 billion annually.

Dr. Stephen, please share your future plans? What innovations and improvements do you plan to implement in your device?

Our startup is nearing the completion of the second investment round. At the moment, we have raised about two million AUD dollars from investors and business angels in Australia for the development of our system and the creation of new tests. Currently, we have two more tests in development, which will be released in the coming months. They will use our current equipment and a similar simple workflow. One of these new tests is an outstanding lactose content test, which promises to be more accurate and easier to use than anything currently available on the market. Our plans include bringing the new test to market, which will require testing on a single device, after which you will be able to use it for a variety of different tests. Although upfront payment is required, this provides the opportunity to conduct various tests with the same device, which is valuable for all stakeholders. Additionally, we plan to release several more tests over the next 6 months, and then develop a series of other tests for a wide range of food industry needs, such as allergens and heavy metals. Currently, we are raising additional funds to develop new tests using the same Cybertongue® technological platform.

Dr. Stephen Trowell, thank you for the fascinating interview. We look forward to your presentation at our Dairy Olympics 2024 in Ankara.

The Dairy Olympics will take place from May 26th to May 30th in Ankara, Turkey. The aim of the Dairy Olympics is to assess the prospects of the global dairy market, evaluate existing industry issues, forecast trends, establish new connections, and initiate new ambitious projects.

To register as a participant or propose a topic for presentation, you can visit the official website of the event.

DOWNLOAD THE DAIRY OLYMPICS DRAFT PROGRAM IN ENGLISH.

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