How Everspring Farms Ltd Increased Testing Efficiency

June 06, 2023

Meeting Deadlines and Keeping Up with the Fast-paced Global Food Supply Chain

With increased demand for food, comes increased production. As food manufacturers continue to face labor shortages, food quality labs have needed to adjust their testing processes and equipment to keep up. Everspring Farms Ltd., a sprouted grains and seeds producer located in Ontario, Canada with a dedication to food safety, signed major customer contracts when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, leading to increased testing on top of the added complexity caused by the pandemic, including staffing shortages. In a lab setting where it is critical to ensure proper training, hiring, and onboarding new employees can be an exhaustive task that can take weeks. And when trying to meet increasing consumer demand, spending time training a new technician to manually count colonies can slow down lab production.

In 2021 the 3M™ Petrifilm® Plate Reader Advanced was launched as an enhancement of previous technology that allows food safety professionals to enumerate microorganisms quickly. The plate reader assists laboratories in improving productivity by automatically counting, recording, and reporting results with up to 94%-time reduced[1] when compared to manually counting microorganisms.

Recently, we interviewed two food safety lab workers from Everspring Farms Ltd. — Rachel Leslie, Quality Assurance Technician and Research Associate, as well as Roland Kuepfer, Quality Assurance Manager — about the effects the Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced has had on their lab.

Lets talk about a typical day, how many 3M Petrifilm Plates are you able to count each day using the 3M Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced?

Rachel Leslie: It varies each day, but on average I have about 110 plates to read per day. This takes us maybe 45 minutes to do, including setting up the table, running all the plates through, adjusting things here and there, if need be, and then reporting it.

In the past, how much time would this work have taken before the lab started using the 3M Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced?

Rachel: It would take at least two, if not three, technicians, which was easily six to seven hours of work across the two to three technicians. And that’s not inclusive of situations where you might have a result that isn’t straightforward, or you have distractions from colleagues coming in and out asking questions.

With time no longer spent manually counting plates, what other type of work has your lab staff been able to focus their time on?

Rachel: It allowed us to cut down on the number of technicians conducting testing — it is now just me doing all the testing. Now, I can dabble in a little bit more R&D, bring more testing on, and, when there is an influx of testing, it isn't as hard to deal with. It also freed Roland up for the regulatory side of operations.

Roland Kuepfer: It freed up a ton of my time to focus more on our British Retail Consortium certification and fulfilling all those clauses. It also freed me up to rework our environmental monitoring program.

Everspring Farms signed some big customer contracts at the start of the pandemic. How much work did you take on yourselves, or have you been sending some of that out?

Roland: We're trying to use more in-house lab testing instead of sending tests out. As we were bringing more testing in-house, 3M released its new Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced — so, perfect timing for us.

Rachel: The system also gives us more confidence in being able to take on those additional contracts in-house. It takes pictures, so if there were any questionable results, you can pull up the test and review visually that the plate reader and its AI system confirmed the same thing.

How does the Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced compare in terms of training new lab technicians?

Rachel: It's not something we've had to experience yet, but it definitely would help. The pictures saved on the reader can be used as a training tool. You can show somebody past plates without having them do all the work to get that reading.

Roland: The reader takes a lot of questions out for someone who is not experienced with reading the plate. We can't foresee too many challenges with training a new technician on the system.

How did you determine whether the 3M Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced would be worth the investment for your lab?

Roland: That had a lot to do with our sales technician. She worked with us, and she provided us with a spreadsheet where we entered our information, and using the data we added the spreadsheet calculated the return on investment. Working with that, we inputted the number of tests conducted on a daily basis and our related costs, and using our data the spreadsheet helped us see how it takes our lab 22 months to get a return on the investment. Which, when we presented that to our leadership, they really were happy with that ROI. Telling them that it takes the plate reader seconds to read a plate compared to the time it takes a technician to read a plate helped demonstrate the value.


The time-saving technology offered by Petrifilm Plates and the Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced can help meet deadlines to keep up with the fast-paced global food supply chain while also helping to overcome staffing shortages. The increased food testing efficency can allow technicians to focus on proactive testing to help manage food borne risk and reduce the probability of product recalls. Find more information on the performance of the 3M Petrifilm Plate Reader Advanced.

If you’re ready to advance the efficiency of your lab by automating the imaging, interpretation, and tracking of results, then be sure to request a demo from one of our 3M experts.

1. Observed on the 3M™ Petrifilm Aerobic Count Plate with High Counts.


Category: Food Safety, Customer Testimonials, Dietary Supplements, Food & Beverage, Pharmaceutical & Biotech, Microbiology, Pathogens