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Oculer Rapid Milk-Spoiling Bacterial Test to Save Dairy €200m a Year

Tipperary dairy technology firm Oculer has developed microbiology testing which could save the Irish dairy sector up to €200m annually in reduced farmer penalties, superior product shelf-life, and enhanced protein concentration.

 Technopath Group spin-off, Oculer’s innovative system will cut detection of milk-spoiling bacteria from the current global standard of 72 hours to 24 hours, with an alarm to signal potential risk of bacteria triggered in as little as six hours. Oculer say this is the biggest breakthrough globally for dairy bacteria testing in the past 100 years.

Oculer chief executive Brian Byrne said: “Oculer also informs farmers where the source of the problem originated.

Thermoduric bacteria can only be effectively eliminated when the source is accurately and reliably identified.”

Thermoduric bacteria are naturally occurring bacteria that survive pasteurisation, and are responsible for downstream spoilage of finished dairy products, for reduced shelf-life and reduced protein concentrations.

Oculer is targeting a €150m annual bacteria testing market with its new test. The company will create at least 20 jobs in sales, R&D and engineering over the next two years.

Milk Test New Zealand, the independent laboratory that carries out thermoduric bacteria testing for 97% of the New Zealand dairy industry, is to receive an Oculer system in Hamilton in early 2016.

Oculer is already reporting very strong interest in the technology from several of the largest industry players around the world.

A Milk Test New Zealand spokesperson said: “We have been in dialogue with Oculer for over a year now regarding the development of a novel rapid high-volume assay for the detection and enumeration of thermoduric bacteria in raw milk.

"During the coming months Oculer will be installing the technology at our laboratory facilities in Hamilton, near Auckland for initial testing.

"We see strong potential for the Oculer system to deliver operational efficiencies to our labs in New Zealand and for the global dairy industry.”

The technology utilises a florescence sensor in a micro titer plate format. The principle of this sensor technology is based on its ability to emit light, indirectly proportional to the level of oxygen present.

As microorganisms grow, they consume oxygen and the florescence signal increases, therefore the higher the microbial load the greater the consumption rate of oxygen, resulting in an increased signal. This signal is captured in a purpose built system incorporating an automatic, high throughput incubator and florescence reader, utilising (Charged Couple Detection) CCD camera technology. The data captured by the camera is taken every 15 minutes allowing a kinetic read of the Microbial growth throughout the incubation period.

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