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Maximizing Productivity of Agriculture

The Impact of Nanotechnology on Food Production and Processing

Anthony Fletcher
Food Production Daily

Nanotechnology will impact food production and processing in three main areas.

1.Crop disease control and management

Disease management is the biggest challenge facing the $600bn agricultural sector. Pressure to maximize crops is intense because of tight margins and record high freight and energy prices.

Nanoscale electromechanical systems are being developed to study pathogen and plant interactions that lead to disease symptoms, while nanoscale processes to extract and analyze genetic material from single or several cells are being investigated.

Detection systems using nanoparticles for various crop diseases such as soybean cyst nematode are also being developed.

2.Food quality and safety

Under the shadow of bioterrorism, new legislation on both sides of the Atlantic means that tracing food from the field to the shop has become a legal obligation. Early warning systems are increasingly needed to quickly identify sabotage.

Nanoscale systems to track agricultural products are being developed, and tiny hybrid particles that can speedily root out even one isolated E. coli bacterium lurking in ground beef are being investigated.

In terms of quality, Buhler has developed a nanoscale zinc oxide suspension for industrial UV absorption, while a US cooking oil manufacturer is pioneering the use of nano-size silver particles to help hinder the oxidation of oils to make it last longer.

3. Demands on food packaging

Consumers demand agricultural products year-round and in perfect condition.

Nanotechnology is being used to create small particles in the film and improve the transportation of some gases through the plastic film to pump out dirty air such as carbon dioxide. Other applications include beer and soft drink bottles with superior barrier properties.

More by Anthony Fletcher on the food industry and nanotechnology

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