In this work, we propose a metamaterial absorber at microwave frequencies with significant sensitivity and non-destructive sensing capability for grain samples. This absorber is composed of cross-resonators periodically arranged on an ultrathin substrate, a sensing layer filled with grain samples, and a metal ground. The cross-resonator array is fabricated using the printed circuit board process on an FR-4 board. The performance of the proposed metamaterial is demonstrated with both full-wave simulation and measurement results, and the working mechanism is revealed through multi-reflection interference theory. It can serve as a non-contact sensor for food quality control such as adulteration, variety, etc. by detecting shifts in the resonant frequencies. As a direct application, it is shown that the resonant frequency displays a significant blue shift from 7.11 GHz to 7.52 GHz when the mass fraction of stale rice in the mixture of fresh and stale rice is changed from 0% to 100%. In addition, the absorber shows a distinct difference in the resonant absorption frequency for different varieties of grain, which also makes it a candidate for a grain classification sensor. The presented scheme could open up opportunities for microwave metamaterial absorbers to be applied as efficient sensors in the non-destructive evaluation of agricultural and food product quality.
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