In the drive to make the world a better, cleaner, more sustainable place, it’s fascinating to see how entrepreneurs are alighting on well-established science, dusting it down and giving it a technological update, and launching fresh products that make a lot of sense. It’s a true testament to the restless human desire to build a better, greener mousetrap.
Take SurePure for example, one of the Social Stock Exchange’s newest members. “We’re joining the Social Stock Exchange because we see membership lending further credibility to our company and the SurePure Turbulator technology,” says Guy Kebble who as CEO heads SuprePure, which has been going since 2005. SurePure has a very clever idea – it takes the well-known liquid disinfection qualities of short wavelength ultraviolet light (UV-C) and extends this into a wider variety of markets than is normally possible.
Quoted on the New York OTC QB market – which caters for investors in venture-capital companies – SurePure has patented an apparatus called the “Turbulator”, which is already being used in several geographical markets.
UV-C is a great way of purifying transparent liquids – such as water – but useless at dealing with harmful micro-organisms in opaque liquids, such as blood. Its main market competitor is thermal pasteurisation – but this form of dealing with unwanted and potentially dangerous bacteria comes at a high price, not the least of which is that it requires a considerable amount of energy and water, and it also denatures (to varying extents) the liquid being treated. If you want to make sure the liquid you are disinfecting really has all harmful bacteria eradicated, the only reliable way to do that – until now – has been to heat it.
The cleverness of the Turbulator is that it circulates the opaque or turbid liquid, which may well contain suspended particles, bringing all the liquid to the surface at some point in its cycle and rendering all of it subject to UV-C, interfering with the DNA of all the micro-organisms such that they cannot reproduce, and swiftly die. In one end of the Turbulator you can shove any liquid you like – including diesel – and out the other end emerges a micro-organism-free version of that liquid. It’s a stunningly neat manipulation of already established science. Milk, juices, beverages, liquid egg, wine, animal blood plasma…you name it, the list of turbid liquids that can be treated, purified and rendered safe by SurePure’s technology is unlimited.
If we take just one, vast market – milk – we can see the scale of both the problems and the opportunities if SurePure gets greater and wider attention.
The US Centers for Disease Control reckons that improperly handled raw milk is responsible for almost three times as many hospitalisations as any other food-borne disease source, making milk one of the most dangerous food products. Various pasteurisation techniques are enforced by regulation in most developed countries to increase milk’s shelf life – but often this pasteurisation kills the beneficial enzymes, the vitamin D levels are lowered, and the flavour is affected.
Kebble’s SurePure technology leaves the nutritious elements of milk untouched, the flavour unaffected, extends the shelf life beyond that of conventionally pasteurised milk and – critically – uses just 16% of the energy of an equivalent pasteuriser. SurePure has claimed (in the International Dairy Magazine) that an “average large dairy” in the UK would save £99,000/year in gas and electricity cost by using its technology rather than conventional pasteurisation – and thus significantly reduce CO2 emissions, too.
So why has it taken so long for SurePure to break through in the market? “Regulation and resistance to change”, says Guy Kebble, who adds that significant strides have been made on the regulatory side; validation projects with major beverage and brewing customers have been completed.
In 1938 in the US milk-borne illness infections accounted for 25% of all disease outbreaks due to infected foods and contaminated water. The US Food and Drugs Administration in 1987 mandated pasteurisation for all milk and milk products for human consumption, so that today less than 1% of food illness outbreaks are due to contaminated milk. Obviously, pasteurisation has proved a success in preventing illness in the US – as it has in the EU, the UK, and many other countries.
The regulations imposing pasteurisation were hard fought-for, successful, and have proved reliable. And although SurePure offers a vastly superior and proved technology to pasteurisation, governments understandably are cautious when it comes to public health and altering regulatory safeguards.
But Kebble is ebullient when it comes to his efforts to persuade government regulators to open their minds to purifying liquids differently, more effectively, through UVC treatment via the Tubulator. He points to a move in January this year by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which reported that, in its opinion, milk treated by SurePure’s UV technology “does not give rise either to safety concerns or to concerns about microbiological quality”, that UV-treated milk is indistinguishable from pasteurised milk – apart from the important fact that SurePure’s UV-treated milk has a 75% increase in shelf-life and in the level of Vitamin D3. With this opinion from the EU’s food regulator, the door cracked open a little wider for SurePure’s future business – and other regulators are sure to follow suit.
But dairy is just one of the many areas the SurePure covers.
The technology is proving successful in others, too. A validation of its patented Turbulator technology on liquid sugar syrup by a major carbonated soft drink brand has reinforced the efficacy of its technology. This validation, completed in May 2016, produced results which highlighted that, when compared to a regular thermal process, the SurePure Photopurification technology resulted in greater reduction of spoilage organisms that are of concern in liquid sucrose. The same study showed the technology provides microbial effectiveness, combined with substantial energy savings, when compared to thermal processes. In the brewing arena, the use of SurePure’stechnology in the liquid adjunct process has been shown to improve flavour stability, while enabling substantial energy savings and throughput increases.
SurePure seems set, in other words, for a sure future.