The Lynx Award is presented to a company that has turned a EUREKA project into a marketplace success. Contronics Engineering B.V., winner of the 2002 Award, has become an important player in the manufacture of humidifiers for keeping food fresh and wholesome. The Dutch SME has seen its turnover for a novel humidifier increase by 20% in 2000 and 42% in 2001, and is on target for a 50% increase in 2002.
Imagine being able to buy vegetables and fruit from the supermarket as fresh as the moment they were first harvested. TV advertisements have long promised this, but the reality can be very different - wilted, wrinkled vegetables and desiccated meats which customers reject and supermarkets eventually throw away.
"Winning the EUREKA Lynx Award was very motivating for my team and is a sign that our product is something special. It will bring us a lot of attention worldwide and new customers in new fields"
Contronics Engineering B.V.
Problems occur, says Frank Bakker, managing director of Contronics Engineering B.V., when vegetables are kept in a cold store before delivery to a supermarket, which then displays them in refrigerated cabinets. "The cooling process dries the air and when fruit and vegetables give moisture back to the air, they too dry out, lose weight and start wilting."
EUREKA project E!1692 SANIFOGGER developed the solution - a stainless steel ultrasonic humidifier incorporating a special filter which produces pure water particles just a micron in size. The water quickly evaporates, blanketing and cooling the produce, which absorbs the moisture through leaves and roots and continues to grow. An application of ozone at night kills any bacteria that may have accumulated during the day.
Supermarkets using the system have reduced wastage by up to 60%, and encounter lower labour costs as the food doesn't require wrapping or placing in the cold store overnight.
Now exporting throughout Europe, the company's turnover for the humidifier in 1999 was 144,000 Euro and is expected to rise closer to 2 MEuro by 2003. A second EUREKA project, E! 2055 TRAVEL FOGGER, has developed a 'travelling' version for keeping food fresh in containers, trucks and trains on long trans-European journeys.
"EUREKA has helped us to develop a system which is now a big commercial success - without EUREKA it would have taken us much longer to get SANIFOGGER onto the market," says Frank Bakker. "Winning the Lynx Award was very motivating for my team. We really feel like a company with a good future. It will bring us a lot of attention worldwide and new customers in new fields. EUREKA endorsement and the Lynx Award are a sign that our product is something special."