Better instant noodles the aim of University of Manitoba research project

A team of researchers in Winnipeg is building an ultrasound machine that would improve instant noodle production, thanks to a grant of more than half a million dollars from the federal government.

Machine in the works senses inconsistencies in dough, ultimately creates a better noodle

Researcher John Page with a prototype of the ultrasound machine that senses inconsistencies in dough. (Martin Scanlon/University of Manitoba)

A team of researchers in Winnipeg is building an ultrasound machine that aims to improve instant noodle production, thanks to a grant of more than half a million dollars from the federal government. 

"Canada used to be known as the breadbasket of the world but I think increasingly it's becoming the noodle manufacturer of the world in terms of the amount of wheat that's grown on the prairies," said Martin Scanlon, a food science researcher at University of Manitoba who's working with a team on this project.

Scanlon's team and ultrasound company VN Instruments are developing a machine that will make noodles more consistent. The work is being done at the Canadian Grain Commission's Grain Research Laboratory in Winnipeg.

Noodle manufacturers are struggling with the consistency of the noodle dough, how it's mixed and how it's rolled out, Scanlon said.

"Manufacturers have to cope with the variability with wheat so they have to adjust the process and sometimes [adjust the] ingredients to make sure they're getting consistent noodles."

The machine the team is building is designed to sense in real-time on the properties that indicate an inconsistent dough.

Ultimately, Scanlon hopes the machine will not only sense those properties, but fix the inconsistencies by adjusting the dough rolling conditions.

This machine could help Manitoba farmers waste less, produce more noodles and ultimately make more money, Scanlon said. 

Much of Canada's wheat exports are sent to Asia for noodle production and this machine means better business for Canada, he said. 

"It's important to the government of Canada... to support this kind of research," he said. "[Overseas customers are] going to have confidence that the wheat that we're producing is being tailored towards the characteristics of what your customers desire for your noodles."

Scanlon said his team is working to get the machine on production lines in the next few years.