Regionalization and organic farming methods are a strong trend in sustainable food production. However, production in smaller production units also presents food producers with new challenges in terms of (self-)control of food. On the one hand, the end consumer of course expects a chemically and biologically flawless product. On the other hand, own standards can be compromised by external factors such as feed or fertilizer. Thus, there is a strong need for decentralized analytics by small food producers for whom an own laboratory infrastructure would not be economical.
In the EU-funded project h-ALO (photonic system for Adaptable muLtiple-analyte monitoring of food-quality, GA 101016706), a small novel analytical system based on a nanoplasmonic sensor is being developed. The aim is the decentralized analysis of microbial contamination, heavy metal contamination and quality parameters on selected food products. For the quantitative measurement two detection principles on nanostructured surfaces are used: surface enhanced plasmonic resonance and plasmonic enhanced fluorescence. Both measurement principles are combined in one multimodal measurement system. In the project, Fraunhofer ENAS is responsible for the microfluidic implementation of the detection reactions on the sensor. Furthermore, ENAS accompanies the project with its system competence in a system engineering approach, i.e. the harmonization of the individual subsystems (optics, electronics, biochemistry, microfluidics, software,...) among each other and with the requirements of the end users.
The time being, the project focuses on the following applications: milk, honey, craft beer and aquaponics.
Further information about the h-ALO project can be found on the project website www.h-alo.eu.