Fresh Check provides food businesses and consumers with a cheap, rapid and simple method to identify and prevent bacterial and chemical contamination. We aim to provide the first hygiene verification tool for food businesses of all sizes.
In the presence of contamination, our spray will turn from purple to any other colour rapidly in a simple and cheap fashion. By providing a tool that can be used by all, we aim to reduce food waste and help prevent potential disease outbreaks.
The project originated from the team’s mission to reduce food waste. As PhD students living on a budget, we became very aware of the cost of food but also, more importantly, how use-by dates were causing unnecessary wastage. We could see that wastage was happening at all stages of the food chain and we decided to focus on tackling the problem at the industry level
We met in the first year of our PhDs and discovered that, alongside our interest in academic research in chemistry, we shared a desire to gain experience in innovation.
Support from Hackspace and the wider Imperial community
The Imperial College Advanced Hackspace helped Fresh Check make our first prototype by giving us a £500 grant to purchase the required chemicals and, most importantly, by providing labspace in which we could operate. Without the space and freedom to develop and iterate our prototypes we would not be where we are today. Their support in these areas has been pivotal to help Fresh Check obtain investment and, it was at the opening of the Hackspace at White City, where we met our first investor. A key milestone in our journey.
Now we have enough financial backing we work out of Imperial Incubator but we have kept strong ties to the Hackspace and enjoy seeing the range of incredible ideas being developed there. We’ve also been able to apply our experience to guide several smaller projects to develop their propositions and grow their own company. This community that makes up the Hackspace is fantastic.
If we had to use three words to describe Hackspace they would be supportive, exciting and electric.
Without the space and freedom to develop and iterate our prototypes we would not be where we are today. Their support in these areas has been pivotal to help Fresh Check obtain investment and, it was at the opening of the Hackspace at White City, where we met our first investor. A key milestone in our journey.
Our current advisor is Dr. Lisa Ackerley who we met at a networking event during an innovation competition. She is well known in the food industry as a spokesperson for new food safety regulatory changes and has previous experience helping companies such as Dettol and Cuticura. Her mentorship has been invaluable to helping Fresh Check grow.
Sucesses and learning
Our first significant success was to file a patent to secure Fresh Check’s intellectual property. This helped the company pose less of a risk for investment which was key when we were at this early stage. A second major success for us was to obtain official and successful testing from Campden BRI, a food and drinks innovation consultancy. Their studies have helped prove the efficacy of Fresh Check against market competitors which, in turn, has significantly derisked Fresh Check within the industry.
Finally, one of our largest achievements to date is not only to sell Fresh Check but to see people re-order the product, demonstrating we have both a unique innovation and a tool which is truly helpful to the food industry.
We have experienced some setbacks. Our first was the initial discovery that the first Fresh Check concept did not actually work. Fortunately this was resolved as we now have a successful product but, at the time, it caused significant stress. The second difficulty we faced was when we officially set up the company, and we had some challenges in terms of correctly filing taxes and setting up pensions. It seemed simple on paper but, in practice, it was a challenge and this was a big learning curve for us.
We also learnt a lot through the first stage of obtaining significant investment. The process of presenting our product and demonstrating that we were suitable for investment was a road with many ups and downs. It took a lot of patience and hard work.
Advice to aspiring makers, hackers, inventors or entrepreneurs
Take a step back and make sure they are on the right path. Sometimes it is easy to feel you are right but it is important to take time and reassess the priorities of how to best develop your idea.
When the Fresh Check team first started we had a very different idea compared to what we have now as the Fresh Check spray. At the time we were set on making our first product work, despite the significant setbacks and issues we were experiencing. It was at this stage the team had to pivot which was daunting but in the end successful.
On the basis of this our advice to aspiring innovators would be to take a step back and make sure they are on the right path. Sometimes it is easy to feel you are right but it is important to take time and reassess the priorities of how to best develop your idea.
We are currently seeking up to £560K to help grow the company. Raising these funds will help bring in new staff and scale the business so we can design new products, hone our sales team and reach international markets.
We are also looking to learn from people who have been at a similar position to us, i.e. companies who were or are at the precipice of significant growth but need an enhanced runway to grow and meet the next milestones.