Imagine you are a Kenyan maize farmer. Your entire lifeblood is tied to your harvest’s percent yield. Imagine your neighbor’s crop gets infected with Aspergillus flavus. Aspergillus is a mold, responsible for producing one of the most deadly, naturally occuring carcinogens known – aflatoxin. The government doesn’t allow the sale of produce with aflatoxin levels above ten parts per billion (ppb). Recently a study found that aflatoxin contamination is more widespread than previously thought especially in eastern and south western sites. For example, in eastern regions 31 percent of samples collected from farmers’ fields in February 2010 had aflatoxin levels greater than ten parts per billion, which is not only over the Kenyan government limit but also the United Nations World Food Programme. In southwestern sites, 40 percent of samples from farmers’ fields during the same period had aflatoxin levels above the legal limit.
However, you aren’t worried because you’ve have been tested all season long with a mobile diagnostic tool from Mobile Assay Inc. that quantifies aflatoxin. Much like a tricorder, you can cheaply test in the field and around the perimeter. The app allows you to timestamp and log the info so you can manage the data later at your computer with the latest statistical data models. Comparing climate data like humidity, precipitation and data gathered from your neighbor using Mobile Assay Inc. diagnostic tool, you are able to monitor a heat map similar to today’s doppler radar.
Sound like the future? Maybe not. Startup companies like Mobile Assay are getting funding from partners like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They already have this Smartphone tool (called mReader™) and cloud aspect for their customers. Together with the foundation, they are working with places like Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, or JKUAT, to help solve this complex problem.
According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 25 percent of world food crops are affected by aflatoxin, and countries that are situated between 40ºN and 40ºS of the equator all around the globe are most at risk (Source: Meridian Institute).
New technology like this could go a long way towards solving the world’s food safety problems. Because of the low-cost of Smartphones even developing countries can afford them. According to the the International Telecommunication Union, 96% of the world population has a mobile subscription (7.1 billion). That’s up a staggering 23% since just two years ago at 5.4 billion. For the latest in mobile diagnostic testing, visit MobileAssay.com.