A biosensor for the agriculture of the future

Food Screening EMR is an Interreg V Euregio Meuse-Rhine project. It aims to support regional SMEs in the agri-food sector in their transition to a more sustainable, future-proof business model. The EU project focuses on three distinct areas: integrating sensor technology into agricultural value chains, developing food and health claims to improve product placement, and exploring new farming techniques that produce healthier food crops.

Measuring the vitamin content of fruits and vegetables in real time

Europe is moving toward the agriculture of the future. The EU Food Screening EMR project is helping producers and growers in the transition phase, like here in Holland. Work is underway on a biosensor that will determine, in real time and in the field, the amount of vitamins contained in these cucumbers or other vegetables or fruits.

Thanks to this information, farmers can adjust variables such as humidity and improve the nutritional quality of their crops. The raw data is presented in a way that farmers can understand and access on a smartphone. John Van Helden, Director & Owner of Yookr, recounts:

“Previously, if you wanted to know how much vitamins were in a vegetable or fruit, it took days to get the results: The measurements went to the lab and had to be sent back. Now you measure it with a sensor. It gives the results within a minute.”

The current version of the biosensor detects the vitamin in the food using a color code. At Maastricht University, researchers are developing the chemical part of the biosensor, the receptor element, which evaluates the exact vitamin content.
Facts & Figures

The project budget is 1.9 million euros. Half of it is funded by the European Union’s cohesion policy. About ten universities, scientists and companies from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands are involved.

Producers and consumers will use the technology to learn about the nutritional quality of individual foods: the goal is to add health claims to products to improve their product placement on the market.

“One of the things you want to know is how many nutrients are in the food,” says Bart Van Grisven, project manager Food Screening EMR . “The offerings in the supermarket are supposed to be healthy, but are they really? A sensor that can quickly tell you the vitamin C content is very useful.”

Communication is important in the shift to advanced agriculture. Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo, a center specializing in healthy food and the future of agriculture, is responsible.

“We contact innovative companies that want to do something to help consumers eat healthier and more consciously, but also to help develop innovations,” explains Max Vogel, business developer at Brightlands Campus. “We encourage businesses to participate and help make a difference in the community.”

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