Bio-sensor developed in Valencia, Spain, can detect pollutants on fruit and vegetables

The AGROBIOCON project has come up with a novel way to detect the presence of pesticides in fruit and vegetables. Researchers based at the Ainia Technology Centre in Valencia have developed an optical biosensor to detect contaminants in a simple, speedy and economic way compared to traditional tests. The commercial application of the project result could be a biosensor used by the horticultural industry to help increase consumer safety.

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Plate with pesticide antibody ©AINIA, 2012 Plate with pesticide antibody ©AINIA, 2012

" Within AGROBIOCON, the necessary technology has been developed to detect the presence of pesticide residues above the maximum limits recommended by current legislation in fruits and vegetables. As a result of the project, a prototype was built – in collaboration with a company that makes phytosanitary products and an instrumentation company – that has been validated in three horticultural plants. "

Eva Sánchez, Ainia Technological Centre

Optical biosensors have great potential for the food sector because they are highly sensitive, versatile, provide a high degree of automation and can be deployed at low cost. The optical biosensor works by detecting changes in the properties of light when contaminants interact with specific antibodies.
The development of a biosensor prototype was made possible thanks to a collaboration between experts in biochemistry and electronics.

The project team worked with two companies to create the sensor. One is a specialist in the field of plant health and phytosanitary treatments in the horticulture industry and the other is a manufacturer of electronic instruments. Negotiations are on-going with a company to transfer the AGROBIOCON methodology to a commercial platform.

Industrial application

Such a device could prove to be extremely useful to fruit and vegetable producers who are obliged to perform tests on their goods to demonstrate compliance with food safety laws.

The project team’s work covered research into the molecular interaction of antibodies specific to residues present on a chosen sample of fruit through to the development of a sensor that transforms the biological variation into an electronic signal. The biosensor system was set up and tested successfully in real operating conditions. The results have been disseminated to local producers in and around Valencia.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “AGROBIOCON: Detection of pollutants in the agri-food industry through biosensors” is EUR 300 139, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 240 111 through the “Valencia” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “research and innovation”.

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