Introducing TeakOrigin’s Lab@Home

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What’s a food data company to do when its lab has to close due to COVID-19 quarantining? Set up at home!

Like many of you, we’re distressed by what’s happening around us. As a team we’re focusing on the positives, looking for opportunities to help our local communities, and continuing to push forward.

Before COVID-19, we’d be in the office running tests, collecting data from the field, and building food models to support our mission of understanding what’s happening inside food. We’d use this data to inform our weekly update of the TeakOrigin Guide, our free resource that unearths and shares the unique inner qualities of top-selling produce from local retailers.

But, things have changed; we’ve paused standard data collection in Los Angeles and Boston for worker safety and to keep produce on the shelves. However, as a team, we agreed that home quarantining doesn’t mean the science has to stop.

Consumer concerns have changed, and we’re seeing ripple effects of COVID-19 in every industry, especially lab-based research efforts after the closing of wet labs across the country. One result? Most countries have stopped governmental food inspections due to worker health concerns, even though they’re still distributing food. We’re looking at how TeakOrigin tests can help fill that gap.

Introducing TeakOrigin Lab@Home: Measuring Nutrition Degradation @ Home

Just because we’re quarantined, doesn’t mean we have to stop pursuing our mission to understand what’s happening inside the food we buy and eat.
For April, instead of city-wide tests and comparisons that focus on determining quality and value at particular stores, we’ll monitor and measure how storage methods at home affect nutrition degradation over time.

We’ve established a decentralized testing team to create the TeakOrigin Lab@Home. Every team member is contributing to the Lab@Home project in some capacity — some employees even have spectrometers set up on their kitchen tables.

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TeakOrigin employees using Optical Spectrometers for food scanning during TeakOrigin’s Lab@Home project.

Up until recently, doing this kind of real-time food analysis in the market, let alone at home, was impossible. Previously, such insights would come only after laborious lab tests and weeks of waiting, all at a prohibitive cost.

TeakOrigin has found a way to conduct testing from any location in the world with the combination of a few important technologies, including applying analytical chemistry, as never before.

To capture these insights, we’re using optical spectrometers, like you find in a lab, that connect to TeakOrigin’s proprietary software. Once team members upload data, our software compares the findings to data models we’ve already built with thousands of tests, millions of data points, and the insights of our analytical chemists. This allows us to create a specific profile for each type of produce, with models for each type of nutrient.

The power of combining these technologies allows us to gather data and gain insights at unprecedented speeds with near lab-grade accuracy.

Key Questions to Answer

Our first mission is to study how time and various means of storage impact your produce and their nutrients. We are testing in 10-day sprints and are focused on the top consumed produce (apples, strawberries, spinach, tomatoes, blueberries). Our goal is to answer the following:

Question 1: Which foods have the highest levels of antioxidants and vitamin C between: spinach, strawberry, Gala apple, Honeycrisp apple, tomato, blueberry?

Question 2: In which foods are vitamin C and/or antioxidants degraded and/or sustained the most?

At the end of each data collection sprint, we will report on:

    1. Which foods contained the greatest antioxidant and vitamin C levels.
    2. How much these foods degraded over time/which foods did the best/worst at maintaining nutrients.
    3. What could have gone smoother/what we can improve for future customers via process improvements.

With this testing and the eventual insights, we’ll be able to start making observations and suggestions to help you get the most out of your food. We’re all more concerned than ever about our health, and these insights may help us better preserve what nutrients our food already has, and gain greater access to nutrients like vitamin C.

This isn’t what we had in mind when we started TeakOrigin, and we plan on going back to our original mission of quantifying in-store food quality and value when things return to normal, but this new reality, perspective, and time is allowing us to ask different questions.

We created this platform to collect data, share insights, and validate quality, and that’s what we’ll continue to do, just in a slightly different way. We are committed to helping you better understand the food you eat, and this is the best way we can do that today. We all deserve to know, now more than ever, what’s in our food.

What’s Next

We hope you’ll stay up to date through the month as we provide interesting insights on Medium and behind-the-scenes videos. Our first results will be live after April 13th so stay tuned…

TeakOrigin (http://www.teakorigin.com) is a food data company staffed with a passionate team of entrepreneurs, and food and data scientists, on a mission to help people make better food decisions by showing what’s happening inside of food. TeakOrigin uses a combination of analytical chemistry, optical spectroscopy, and machine learning — for rapid, nondestructive, and highly accurate quality assessment of foods’ authenticity, quality, and freshness.

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