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The New Generation of Agriculture: Fluorescence Imaging Technology - Rapid Detection for Pesticide Residue

News on February 4, 2022

In order to strengthen the national development strategy for biomedical industry, the MOST (Ministry of Science and Technology), the MOHW (Ministry of Health and Welfare), and the MOEA (Ministry of Economic Affairs) jointly proposed the "Taiwan Precision Health Strategic Industry Development Project", which will promote the industry chain development of precision health and establish a domestic biomedical technology industry connecting to the globe. NARLabs' Taiwan Instrument Research Institute (TIRI) under the MOST assists the research teams of Prof. Wen-Shiang Chen from NTU and Prof. Chun-Yu Chuang from NTHU to develop smart agriculture technology with fluorescence imaging capability. Through the interdisciplinary collaboration between prevention medicine and precision agriculture, the "Extraction-free Rapid Detection System for Pesticide Residue" has been developed and won the 18th National Innovation Award.

Pesticides are usually used for pest control to maintain the quality and yield of crops in traditional farming methods. At present, random detection is common used for pesticide residue detection on the market. After sampling and pretreatment by professionals, the samples are analyzed whether there are pesticide residues by lab mass spectrometer. Such a sampling method may destroy the crops, and cannot be detected immediately.

TIRI has established long-term partnership with Prof. Wen-Shiang Chen from NTU. In 2015, MOVIS (MOVIS Portable In vivo Optical Imaging System) has been jointly developed. With advanced optical instrument technology, the hidden fluorescence inside small animals can be located, which can not only increase the experiment efficiency, but also reduce animal sacrifice. After getting mature, the fluorescence imaging technology has been extended to pesticide detection; thus, the "Extraction-free Rapid Detection System for Pesticide Residue" for pesticide monitoring has been developed, jointly collaborating with Prof. Chun-Yu Chuang from NTHU.

This fluorescence imaging detection system is capable of detecting excessive levels of pesticide residues in agricultural products in just 30 seconds without the need for professionals to perform complicated extraction procedures, thus effectively avoiding sampling deviation and greatly improving the efficiency of screening pesticide residues in crops. In addition to being used by the competent authorities, farmers can also use it as an autonomous pesticide residues detection before harvesting. Because of its innovative and specific contribution to food safety, the system won the Academic Research Innovation Award at the 18th National Innovation Awards.

TIRI actively constructs an interdisciplinary R&D service platform for instrument technology. It is the only research institute in Taiwan that can provide customized services for key modules and instruments. With 45-year experiences in optics and imaging technology, TIRI assists the academia to customize fluorescence imaging detection components which fulfill the requirement of pesticide detection, promoting advanced academic research and implementing livelihood applications. This technology can be applied in various fields. This interdisciplinary collaboration is expected to bring new breakthrough for precision health industry and scientific agriculture.