Fera: Pioneering the way in technology in agri-food science


Fera: Pioneering the way in technology in agri-food science

Since our early beginnings, Fera have remained at the forefront of utilising developments in technology to the best of our advantage. Such advancement has allowed us to retain our original thinking and presence in the agri-food sector whilst confronting national incidents. In the mitigation and prevention of national incidents, Fera utilises an integral role in support of the government in testing 100,000 samples each year. This has previously covered national issues such as the use of horsemeat in our food chain, the outbreak of ash dieback affecting Britain’s ash tree population and combatting the invasion of the Asian Hornet which risked the decimation of Britain’s bee population in the same way it has done in North Africa and continental Europe.

A primary component in Fera’s emerging risk and early warning services for the global food and commodity supply chain is that of HorizonScanTM. A database of global raw material and commodity issues, which spans to all areas of food integrity, HorizonScanTM helps the industry to manage food safety issues very quickly. At its core, HorizonScan is a pro-active mode of technology that provides useful for anyone wishing to keep an inspecting eye on supply chains. The benefits of this scope from a global scale of preventing interruptions to businesses, creating automatic alerts for issues most important to you and to searching by commodity, country of origin, type of threat and supplier to name a few.

High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry (HR-AM) with gas or liquid chromatography modules aquire full scan MS information providing a plethora of potential ‘non-targeted’. This technology allows Fera to bring together expertise from opposite ends of the scientific spectrum, to effectively problem solve any food safety issue you may be facing. This has various applications such as chemical profiling through non-targeted methods, overall screening against known molecules, metabolomics, proteomics, and environmental fate and behaviour studies

In terms of eliminating the source of harmful pathogens from entering the food supply, OriGen can be utilised to identify the source of contamination within food through state-of-the-art Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS). Such a service can reduce waste and save money through avoidance of costly product recalls, whilst targeting salmonella, listeria, campylobacter and e.coli.

Nucleur Magnetic Resonance is used to study the structure of molecules in either isolation or complex mixtures. It is extremely useful when providing quantification for unknowns. Offering minimal sample preparation, non-destructive analysis and consistency for the detection and quantification of analyses; NMR has unique advantages over other methods. NMR can be used as a confirmatory tool across many disciplines as well as a valuable standalone technology for non-targeted analysis.

Alongside our partners in the national Crop Health and Protection Centre, we are working to deploy remote ‘in-field’ sensors that remain in crop fields to identify airborne entities. From here, data is effectively transmitted to allow for air mapping, which can lead to predictions and therefore protections of crop yield loss. An effective and prudent piece of technology, as a 1% increase in the UK’s total crop yield has the potential to generate an additional £50M for the industry and U.K. economy.

Our developments in technology allow us to cover a broad spectrum of agri-food issues. One specific area of expertise at Fera is that of Nematode testing. We cover a wide range of nematodes – from symptomatic tubers to plant material to general free-living nematodes. In the case of our technology, this can be effectively utilised alongside our expertise to prevent issues such as stunted growth. A particular issue, which can lead to the reduction of yields to the rate of 80%.

The joint venture brought about the launch of the centre for Crop Health and Protection (CHAP). It secured over £20 million of investment from BEIS and is headquartered at Fera’s campus near York. CHAP’s consortium partners include Bayer CropScience, Farmcare, Frontier Agriculture, Tesco, Stockbridge Technology and, alongside AHDB, CABI, Cranfield University, Newcastle University and Rothamsted Research. It is creating an environment that encourages the exchange of cutting-edge knowledge, resulting in greater innovation and wider access to the best available technologies and solutions. By taking science to the farm, CHAP is helping farmers, growers and the food industry improve yields, reduce costs and meet the need for sustainable solutions to present and future challenges.


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