“Scan” to know the nutritional content

When you buy a bag of crop food (such as oatmeal) from the supermarket, the package often lists the content of various nutrients, such as protein content per kilogram, fat content, carbohydrate content, and so on.

All this is measured by the laboratory staff through chemical methods. To measure its nutritional composition, it is generally necessary to consume at least 1 jin of grain, and the results will not be available until a few days or weeks. But now, Finnish scientists have invented a hand-held “crop sensor”, you only need to hold it to scan the crop, about 5 seconds to measure its nutritional composition.

Different from traditional chemical methods, the “crop sensor” scans samples with different frequencies of near-infrared light, and accurately measures the content of protein, moisture, fat and carbohydrates in the crop according to the amount of light absorbed by each frequency. Only 50-100 grains of crop samples can be used to measure the content of all nutrients at one time.

With this “crop sensor”, consumers will be able to more easily understand which nutrients are contained in the food they eat in the future. However, the biggest beneficiaries are farmers.

Traditionally, agriculture has been guided by the intuition and experience of farmers, but as the environment becomes more and more unpredictable, timely access to information has become increasingly important. For example, a Harvard University study in the United States in August 2017 showed for the first time that the increase in carbon dioxide levels in the air significantly reduced the protein content of major crops. This puts about 150 million people in the world at risk of too little protein intake by 2050.

Although the level of science and technology in agriculture is getting higher and higher, for example, soil sensors can monitor field conditions in real time, and drones can display plots that need to be irrigated or to eliminate pests, but the nutrients of crops can only be known after harvest.

With this “crop sensor”, farmers can estimate the nutrient content of crops in real time, and reduce the negative impact of climate change by adding fertilizer or adjusting humidity in time.

At present, this “crop sensor” can only analyze the nutrients in crops such as wheat, oats, rye and barley, and researchers are considering adding corn and rice to it.

This technology can also be used to measure the protein content of any food (including meat).