Research project Quick test for detection of bacterial contamination in food

In progress AGREUFOOD
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Johan Robbens on a boat at a seaweed farm

Johan Robbens

ValgOrize project coordinator


Main research question

This project is intended to make new biosensor technology industrially applicable, at least to the level of a finely tuned, reliable demonstrator, with the right scale and connected to a clear software platform. It is a technology developed specifically for the agro-food industry based on synthetic bioreceptors and thermal resistance measurements. The intention is that agri-food companies will, in the short term, be able to automate and continuously test their products during the entire production phase for the presence of bacterial contamination. So far, this bacterial control is still carried out by random samples, which are analysed (mainly by hand) in a lab.

Research approach

The researchers test the promising new technology (in its current development phase) on samples from an industrial food environment. On this basis they optimize the method in terms of the required detection limits. There are also test measurements in complex samples to test the robustness and degree of detail of the technology. The equipment itself is adapted to the required dimensions to reach a demonstrator that enables automated measurements. We build a user-friendly and easy-to-use platform around the current software, so that the end user can easily follow the measurement process in time. Also remotely, the company must be able to consult the detection process online at any time via a smartphone app or a website. ILVO has the important role to transfer the specialized knowledge around the microbiological applicability and around the assessment of the biosensor technology compared to the reference measurements to the local quality controllers at the food companies.


The demonstrator promises a clear added value in terms of food safety and autocontrol, because it could make detection more continuous, automated and efficient. We expect many interested reactions in the agri-food sector both in the Netherlands and in Belgium. The companies can meet the market demand for safe and healthy high-quality food products. They are given the opportunity to create and maintain a competitive advantage through innovation. That's why both partner Brightlands Campus Green Port Venlo and ILVO, from their triple-helix structure, provide intensive specific practical communication efforts when the product is on point.
A second promising aspect is the possible wider applications. Because this is a platform technology, it can easily be extended to the detection of other unwanted contaminants (fungi, toxins, allergens, pesticides, heavy metals, etc.). The case studies may lead to new pathways to explore.