This could change the way we shop

PAUL Brockwell could change the face of food shopping.

His intelligent plastic technology is capable of telling you everything from how fresh the broccoli is on the supermarket shelf to whether you should throw out Saturday's leftover casserole.

Now the Coffs Harbour inventor has been short listed as a finalist in the 2008 national innovation quest, the INNOVIC- Next Big Thing Award.

His invention, low-cost plastics which can detect and display information about freshness and ripeness in a way anyone can read and understand, will go on display with other finalists at the Melbourne Museum from May 14 to June 22.

Imagine bottle lids that can monitor the freshness of milk and guide the cellaring of wine; a label that changes colour to tell you how long that package of prawns has before it goes 'off' and a band aid that changes colour when it is no longer effective.

The Coffs Harbour academic has spent 10 years researching and developing his cheap, simple devices.

The labels, stickers or seals monitor the product continuously, showing the stage of freshness with colour changes or indicator strips.

They have applications from horticulture and health care to assessing the quality of leftovers in the fridge and packed lunches at school; monitoring human and animal physiology and even problems like 'sick building syndrome.'

Dr Brockwell, whose original doctorate involved modelling freshness in broccoli and table grapes, has been supported in his work by the Coffs Harbour Innovation Centre at Coffs Harbour Education Campus and has also received support from AusIndustry.

Now he is looking for investors and more support from the industries that will be using his product.

Coffs Harbour marketing specialist Des McRae says he believes the first local application for the technology will be in monitoring the freshness of prawns and in the avocado industry, where 81 per cent of buyers say they don't know how to find an avocado ripe enough to eat immediately.

Brockwell and Co Pty Ltd is based at the Coffs Harbour Innovation Centre.

Dr Brockwell said the applications for the system included monitoring and reporting changes in the quality of foods, blood and blood products, the health and fitness of humans and animals and the environment we live in.

"Our indicating systems are reliable scientific instruments made at a fraction of a cent that generate valid reports to everyday people," Dr Brockwell said.

"As a sentinel, our technology ensures that consumers of valued products achieve confidence in the quality they are buying.

"As a fitness/health monitor, the wellbeing of the community can be gauged at the home, at school and at work."

The manager of the Innovation Centre, Geoff Piesse said Dr Brockwell's selection as a finalist brought great credit both to him and to the Innovation Centre which had strongly supported him over the past two years.

The executive director of the CHEC, Bob Prater said the project showed the partnership between learning and research.

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