The use of the h-ALO sensor will be demonstrated in 4 real-setting applications focusing on farm-to-fork short value chains that include the production, processing and vending by small/medium-sized farms and craft-food producers.
The 4 food-chains selected as use-cases for the demonstration on site in real-setting of the sensor are: aquaponics, craft-beer, raw milk and organic honey. These are strategical since they belong to regional, organic and specialty product food chains that must meet the consumers increasing demand for high quality and safety.
Such value chains share the need for a sensor, easily adaptable to different food products, which is able to screen at the same time multiple and largely different classes of analytes: from microbiological contaminants such as bacteria and spoilage yeasts, to chemical contaminants, such as pesticides/antiparasitics and heavy metals.
Impact of the food value chains
Aquaponics is the smartest example of circular economy in the agri-food sector: the combination of aquaculture with hydroponics. Monitoring the quality of water allows to provide better nourishment for vegetables and therefore an increased yield. h-ALO will contribute to legitimize aquaponic products by lowering monitoring costs while guaranteeing that the products are free of pathogens and safe for consumption.
The beekeeper sector in Europe is characterized by very small operation size. Early detection of pesticide or microbial contamination in organic honey allows prevention of bee colony (and honey) loss, or honey production loss due to low quality. h-ALO will have a direct effect on the capacity of such small apiarists as it will provide an easy-to-use, affordable, and portable tool for the analysis of apiculture products that will help beekeepers to ensure the quality of their products avoiding loss and waste of resource, protect the bee health and increase the value of their products.
The European Union is the second largest worldwide beer producer. From 2012 to 2018 the number of breweries in the EU significantly increased mainly due to the establishment of a substantial number of microbreweries or craft breweries. The h-ALO technology will provide local brewers a powerful tool to guarantee a high-quality standard, reduce use and loss of natural resources and keep costs sustainable. The early detection of beer contamination enabled by the h-ALO sensor can lead to the decision to undertake pasteurization or distillation, thereby preventing food loss and/or food safety issues.
Today, a single sensing system capable of detecting both chemical and microbiological contaminants simultaneously in milk does not exist in the market of portable on-site analytical instrumentation. The h-ALO project enables the early detection of pathogens such E. Coli and STEC in raw milk that is devoted to the production of artisanal cheese and will empower small and medium-sized farms to face the expected increase in request of certified quality milk (e.g. organic milk, GM-free, pasture and hay-based production, etc.) for direct sale at vending machines.