A collaboration between Chennai based startup Pure Scan AI and Hyderabad based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) to create a portable aflatoxin detector has won the Inspire Challenge by the CGIAR Big Data Platform at the recent Big Data Convention, earning a $ 100,000 grant to build and scale up the device.
Utilizing the blacklight fluorescence feature of aflatoxin, this device captures the fluorescence by cameras with filters. Images are processed and the fluorescence degree and pattern are fed into a learning model that predicts the quantity of aflatoxin present in the sample to an accuracy of 1 part per billion error margin. This is the first time ICRISAT has won an Inspire Challenge award.
Aflatoxin – a carcinogenic mycotoxin found in groundnut (and other produce e.g. maize, chillies, rice, tree nuts etc.) produced by a fungus Aspergillus flavus – can cause liver damage, malnutrition, immune suppression and cancer. Aflatoxin contamination is also responsible for millions of dollars in trade loss for farmers, processors and exporters.
Work on development of this device began two years ago with Dr Srikanth Rupavatharam from the Digital Agriculture and Youth (DAY) theme, and Dr Hari Kishan Sudini from the Integrated Crop Management (ICM) theme at ICRISAT. This project seeks to improve an existing low-cost device (<USD50) for rapid aflatoxin detection in peanuts and maize using image processing under UV light.
The aflatoxin detection device hopes to leverage artificial intelligence and big data to resolve the above challenges, giving farmers a good price for their safe produce.
While more work needs to be done to bring this innovation to the farmer – e.g. an android app and a web platform have to be built, the innovators are hopeful that the device will soon enable farmers to access online marketplaces for a fair price on their high-quality produce free of aflatoxin.