Monday, July 15, 2024

University of Otago Develops AI to Verify Wine Authenticity in New Zealand

As food fraud rises globally, the University of Otago in New Zealand has embarked on a pioneering project to protect its esteemed wine industry from counterfeit products. Spearheaded by Dr. Biniam Kebede, a senior lecturer in food science, the project aims to leverage artificial intelligence and hyperspectral imaging to verify wine authenticity and traceability without opening the bottle.

The initiative comes at a critical time when food fraud, especially geographical origin fraud, is becoming increasingly common. This type of fraud involves misrepresenting the origin of a wine, such as claiming a wine from one country is from another. Given New Zealand wine’s reputation for high quality and unique flavors, it is particularly vulnerable to such deceit.

Dr. Kebede’s cutting-edge research uses hyperspectral imaging, which involves shining infrared light through the bottle to capture complex imaging data. This data is then analyzed using artificial intelligence and deep learning techniques to verify the wine’s authenticity. This method eliminates the need to open the bottle, preserving the product for sale.

“New Zealand wine is highly valued for its distinctive quality, and protecting its geographical integrity is essential,” Dr. Kebede stated. “Our project aims to ensure that the wine industry maintains its reputation and consumer trust by developing robust verification techniques.”

The project involves creating an extensive imaging database of New Zealand wines. This database will serve as a reference to authenticate wines claimed to be from New Zealand, ensuring their traceability and integrity. Dr. Kebede emphasized the broader benefits of this research, including economic strengthening, enhanced market reputation, and increased consumer confidence in premium pricing.

Similar technologies have been successfully applied to verify coffee authenticity, providing a promising precedent for this wine project. Recently, the project received $300,000 in Catalyst funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment as part of the New Zealand-China Strategic Research Alliance.

This collaborative endeavor includes prominent research institutes and industry stakeholders such as the University of Otago, AgResearch, Oritain, and Sinolight Technology Innovation Centre Ltd. from China.

This groundbreaking initiative not only aims to safeguard New Zealand’s wine industry but also sets a global standard for food integrity and authenticity verification.

For further information, please contact John Lewis at john.lewis@odt.co.nz.

 

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