Alumni Spotlight: What’s in Your Food? Technion Alum-led Company Lets You Find Out
August 16, 2019
By: Tova Kantrowitz
Growing up on a farm in Israel gave Technion alumnus Dror Sharon an appreciation for real food. Years later, he turned this appreciation into a business called Consumer Physics, a sensor company behind SCiO, the world’s smallest spectrometer. The company specializes in analyzing animal feed to assure optimal composition for livestock.
“While humans have tastes and buy food according to the color of the box, animals do not depend on food labels and packaging, but only care about the quality of the feed itself. Real time analysis of each step in the food production improves outcomes for dairy farmers,” said Sharon.
The idea for Consumer Physics followed many years of experience in sensor technology, combined with the business side of building startups. After completing his electrical engineering degree at the Technion, Dror earned an MBA from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and worked for several companies, including McKinsey & Company, Omniguide, and Gemini Israel Ventures, a venture capital fund that included investor Dov Moran, a Technion alumnus well known for inventing the USB memory stick.
“In 2011, I was on a beach in Tel Aviv and literally bumped into Damien Goldring, a fellow Technion alum who also served with me in the Air Force,” said Sharon. “We began the journey that led to the establishment of the company.”
According to Sharon, the time was right to start Consumer Physics. The iPhone was just three to four years old, but it was clear there would be an optics revolution that utilized smartphones. Using their expertise in physics, he and Goldring looked at multiple flexible sensing modalities that provide for a wide range of functionality. They ultimately deployed spectroscopy as the core technology. After two years of bootstrapping with operational funds, they received the A-round of funding from investors in Silicon Valley, and were off and running in 2012. It took five years to mature the technology. In 2015, they shipped their first product, and have experienced a high volume in recent years.
Today, the company has customers in more than 140 countries, with the majority in the U.S. and Europe. Consumer Physics is winning innovation awards and exploring the possibility of including its sensing technology in smartphones in addition to the stand-alone device. This will enable greater use by consumers who, for example, could sense the sweetness of an apple when shopping at their local supermarket. While Sharon is based in Silicon Valley, the company employs 40 people in Israel, and a U.S. team that largely operates in the Midwest.
In addition to generating business, part of the company culture is knowing how to use the technology for the greater good, through food safety and other benefits. The company also promotes the technology as an EdTech platform.
Sharon is enthusiastic about enhancing STEM education with the device. “Schools use the SCiO device to teach chemistry and computer science, including machine-learning on an automated platform. We have students analyze the composition of cheese and create an app that can be used for future analysis.”
For more than a century, the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology has pioneered in science and technology education and delivered world-changing impact. Proudly a global university, the Technion has long leveraged boundary-crossing collaborations to advance breakthrough research and technologies. Now with a presence in three countries, the Technion will prepare the next generation of global innovators. Technion people, ideas, and inventions make immeasurable contributions to the world, innovating in fields from cancer research and sustainable energy to quantum computing and computer science to do good around the world.
The American Technion Society supports visionary education and world-changing impact through the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology. Based in New York City, we represent thousands of US donors, alumni, and stakeholders who invest in the Technion’s growth and innovation to advance critical research and technologies that serve the State of Israel and the global good. Over more than 75 years, our nationwide supporter network has funded new Technion scholarships, research, labs, and facilities that have helped deliver world-changing contributions and extend Technion education to campuses in three countries.