CORDIS
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The first portable genetic analyser for crop pathogen detection

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 877264

Status

Closed project

  • Start date

    1 July 2019

  • End date

    31 December 2019

Funded under:

H2020-EU.3.

H2020-EU.2.3.

H2020-EU.2.1.

  • Overall budget:

    € 71 429

  • EU contribution

    € 50 000

Coordinated by:

TERRABIO SP. Z O.O.

English EN

The first mobile diagnostic device to identify agri-food pathogens

Food producers continually improve processes to ensure high quality and safety. The automated Terrabio diagnostic device conducts on-site tests for pathogens in agri-food produce, cost-effectively and quickly.

Food and Natural Resources
© blackeagleEMJ, Shutterstock

Food can be contaminated by pathogens, toxins, chemicals, antibiotics, allergens or foreign objects. Once contamination has been detected, food is recalled by suppliers, costing money and jeopardising consumer confidence. Identification of pathogenetic crop contamination usually takes place in labs. As the process can take 2-3 weeks, large areas of crops can be lost to disease in the meantime. Producers often resort to preventive, but environmentally damaging, pesticide usage. The EU-supported Terrabio project has developed the first mobile genetic analyser for the agri-food market to detect pathogens. After promising test results with the first iteration of their device, EU funding enabled the team to develop a second version, as well as conduct a feasibility study to guide their commercialisation strategy. Terrabio currently has two pending patent applications – one to protect the instrument that amplifies biological samples, making pathogens easier to detect, and a second for the assay that does the actual detection.

The automated solution

“Successful automation has been achieved in other areas, such as human clinical diagnostics, but until now has not been applied to the food safety industry. Our solution does not require constant low temperatures for the storage of test kits, and as it is conducted on site, test samples do not need transportation,” says Aleksandra Wira-Jarosz, project coordinator. The Terrabio diagnostic device operates using a proven quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR) technique, the preferred molecular technology for detecting pathogenic organisms in food. They simplified this technique with its own automated amplification of specific DNA fragments from pathogen or plant samples, making identification easier. The subsequent interpretation of results is based on the company’s proprietary genetic identification system. The system can be used by people with no training in micro- or molecular biology. Samples are placed into a reagent tube and a buffer solution is added, creating the right environment for enzymes to amplify DNA fragments. Contaminants are detected by measuring the level of fluorescence emitted by active substances in the buffer. If the level exceeds a certain value, users get an alert on their smartphone, with results available in 15–35 minutes. The device can identify up to 16 pathogens at the same time. It also offers a forecasting platform which uses artificial intelligence techniques to predict pathogenetic increases in crops, based on the forecast of atmospheric conditions over subsequent days. Terrabio tested the first version of the analyser on tomato and pepper cultivations, in cooperation with AmPlus, a leading food distributor in Poland. The results demonstrated the technology’s efficacy, with the detection of Pythium ultimum and Phytophthora capsica – common plant pathogens. The team are now working on an updated version of the system’s analyser and chemistry to improve its operation and lower the cost of reagents.

Towards a smarter food system

As the technology is suitable for pathogen testing of any biological sample, Terrabio’s versatile and scalable solution will be attractive to agri-food producers. Once the updated device is completed later this year, the team will conduct a larger trial focusing on greenhouses and cereals. Next, they intend conducting further tests for other agri-food markets such as orchards and florists, as well as initiating the certification process. “We will reduce the cost per sample to a price that will incentivise widespread adoption of our technology in the food industry, benefitting people’s health and the environment,” says Wira-Jarosz.

Keywords

Terrabio, pathogens, contaminants, food, agri-food, crops, disease, genetic, qPCR

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 877264

Status

Closed project

  • Start date

    1 July 2019

  • End date

    31 December 2019

Funded under:

H2020-EU.3.

H2020-EU.2.3.

H2020-EU.2.1.

  • Overall budget:

    € 71 429

  • EU contribution

    € 50 000

Coordinated by:

TERRABIO SP. Z O.O.