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Gold medal win in innovation at the Ploughing Championships

Posted on: 28 Sep 2016

Gold medal win in innovation at the Ploughing Championships

Tyndall won the Gold Medal at the 2016 Innovation Arena Awards for Most innovative Research Emerging from 3rd Level in this year’s National Ploughing Championships.  The awards recognise innovative agri-tech capability and new product development in the agriculture sector.

The National Ploughing Championships claims a record 195 applications were received to exhibit for the awards, with just under 70 chosen to attend the event. Tyndall won the Gold Medal for its work on developing a smart sensor system for on-Farm Bovine disease detection.  

A major challenge that global agriculture faces is the requirement for a 60% increase in food, to cope with the expected demand, against a backdrop of climate change and a growing scarcity of water and natural resources. It is now critically important to develop sustainable animal production systems with greater efficiencies and reduced waste.  Within  the dairy and meat sectors, animal diseases result in losses of over 20% in global production (source: world organisation for animal health). A key contributor to the prevalence of animal diseases is that current detection methods are slow lab-based diagnostic processes  which can take more than 72 hours to report results depending on workload.  Slow diagnosis of viral infections can potentially result in severe financial implications for the livestock industry. This allows for the uncontrolled spread of the virus within a herd and possible transmission to naïve herd cohorts.  Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) alone cost the Irish dairy/beef industry €102 million per annum and $4 billion in the US cattle industry prior to the eradication scheme.   Similar loss-making illnesses include Infectious bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) and Johne’s disease.  There is now a critical need for new point-of-care diagnostic devices, designed for on-farm analysis, which deliver rapid and economical identification of animal disease states

The availability of a cheap and effective on-Farm test, using milk or serum, would allow veterinarians and farmers to rapidly diagnose different diseases and allow them to implement treatment early and therefore permit them to prevent/reduce costly outbreaks.

Tyndall National Institute is developing a label-free and cost-efficient nanowire-based immunosensor system, to provide on-site disease testing in cows within 15 minutes using serum samples. The core innovation lies in the use of discrete arrays of metal nanoelectrodes on silicon chips as sensor devices.  These nanosensor devices exhibit a 100-10,000 fold increase in sensitivity and can undertake analysis in milliseconds compared to minutes for commercial state-of-the-art electrodes.  Our sensor uses a similar approach to existing glucose tests for diabetics, whereby using a droplet of blood serum is deposited on the sensor which can then clearly discriminate between virus positive and virus negative blood.  Different sensor devices are being developed for both bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVD) and bovine herpesvirus-1 (BHV-1).  The sensor device is: 

Key benefits

  • Total test time <15 minutes
  • Suitable for serum samples and potentially milk samples
  • Up to 8 sensor channels integrated on chip to allow testing of multiple diseases simultaneously.
  • Control sensors correct for noise and drift while also ensuring device functionality

A multi-disciplinary team is now being established to bring this innovative electrochemical research out of the lab and into a product.  The team is led by the Nanotechnology group in collaboration Microelectronic Circuit Centre Ireland (MCCI), The Wireless Sensor Network group, and Maintenance Group and also working with researcher colleagues at Teagasc, Moorpark.  The team will develop a handheld smart sensor system with disposable sensor cartridges for disease diagnostics.  The sensor cartridges will comprise of sensor chips with microfluidic sample delivery while the operating system will employ bespoke driver circuitry and employ a graphical user interface.  The system will communicate results directly to the user on a display and also has the capability to simultaneously send results to the cloud which can be accessed by data management systems.  This work was funded by SFI through their US-Ireland programme and CONNECT, an SFI’s centre for future networks. 

Other Tyndall technologies presented the National Ploughing Competition
Tyndall also presented their “small smart farm” next generation of internet-of-things prototype which takes live data (soil temperature, pH & moisture content) from all over the farm to common dashboard, for example on a mobile phone.  This will allow producers to make informed decisions, for example when to sow crops or spray to avoid blight based on real-time data.  This will enable farmers of the future to operate their farms in a more cost effective and optimised fashion – the phrase used is “precision Agriculture”. Technology like this will enable significant cost savings to farmers around their farming operations.