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SMARTPHONE APPLICATION DETECTS AFLATOXIN IN GRAINS


Recently, ICT has contributed significantly to the development of World Agriculture.  A Smartphone Application now offers farmers in developing country an opportunity to detect and manage Aflatoxins responsible for causing Liver Cancers. Aflatoxins are naturally occurring contaminants produced by Fungus, especially Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. These moulds grow on crops, especially groundnuts, tree nuts, maize, wheat, and cottonseed that are stored under conditions of warmth and humidity.

The Lab-on-Mobile-Device (LMD) or Smart phone Application  can detect Aflatoxins as accurately as a laboratory test, but can be carried out anywhere at a fraction of the cost using a Smartphone camera, according to Donald Cooper of the University of Colorado, United States, who co-founded a company called Mobile Assay to develop the technology. However, Laboratory tests that can detect Aflatoxins are very expensive coupled with the challenge of transporting samples from remotes areas.
According to Scidev.net, local regulatory agencies widely use cheaper immunoassay tests, which operate in a similar way to over-the-counter pregnancy tests, for on-location screening. But these can only indicate a positive or negative result via a colour change on test strips or in liquid substrates and so are unable to indicate the level of health threat. “The immunoassay tests are semi-qualitative techniques and they are not very appropriate for making decisions about whether a batch of food is fit for consumption.

After users photograph the test strip with the Smartphone, the app then calculates the pixel density of the coloured band. The result shows how much Aflatoxin is present, within a certain threshold, rather than merely giving a simple positive or negative result. LMD is more sensitive than the human eye, boosting the accuracy of traditional immunoassay tests by a factor of 100. Data from the tests will also be automatically uploaded online to create real-time, open-access maps of Aflatoxin outbreaks for research.
Moreover, Mobile Assay is also developing a prototype low-energy, lightweight ozone decontamination unit to treat infected crops. Cooper says the technology, often used in organic farming in the United States, can neutralise up to 90 per cent of the Aflatoxin in a plant