Center for Produce Safety Names GRABIT Challenge Award Recipients
- by Melissa De Leon
WOODLAND, CA - Center for Produce Safety (CPS) continuously finds ways to introduce new innovations to the agricultural industry. The organization held its “Growers’ Risk Assessment Biomarker Investigative Tools” (GRABIT) challenge, in which it awarded $135,000 to three groups of forward-thinking scientists.
"Our GRABIT awards are designed to stimulate the science and technology communities, to bring us relevant tools that our growers and processors can use to better manage the relationship between plant and animal agriculture," said Dave Corsi, Vice President of Produce and Floral, Wegmans Food Markets, and Chair of the Board of Directors, Center for Produce Safety. "These new awards are just one of the ways that CPS has revamped our research funding programs, to be more flexible and responsible to industry's needs."
According to a press release, the GRABIT awards focus primarily on helping growers identify pre-harvest risks posed by the potential of contamination via airborne transport and nearby animal feeding operations. Grant awards were given by CPS Board Chair Dave Corsi and Technical Committee Chair Drew McDonald. The winners include Dr. Mohit Verma of Purdue University, awarded $30,000; Jim Byron of Nano Reagents, awarded $75,000; and Luxin Wang of UC Davis, awarded $30,000.
"We know that produce growers are aggressively searching for better methods and tools to identify product contamination, so that they can then eliminate suspect material quickly to prevent cross-contamination of healthy product downstream. Until now, that focus has mostly on pre-harvest and finished product testing," said Nano Reagents LLC's Byron. "Now, our company is focusing on the fundamental building blocks of testing, using a new class of reagents to provide growers and processors with an entirely new capability that is fast, easy, inexpensive and accurate. This is a true breakthrough for fresh produce safety."
The Purdue team, headed by Dr. Mohit Verma, is working to harness microfluidics technology to detect indicators of zoonotic (animal) pathogens of human foodborne illness concerns. The UC-Davis and Auburn researchers, headed by Luxin Wang, are seeking to develop a field tool to detect a broad fecal indicator group (known as Bacteriodales) associated with all animals. And Nano Reagents LLC, headed by Jim Byron, is working to harness aptamer technology to detect multiple animal biomarkers, with or without co-detection of pathogens.
Congratulations to the innovative scientists who received Center for Produce Safety’s GRABIT awards this year! Check back with AndNowUKnow for more produce industry updates.