Dr. Stephanie Moore, from NOAA, has welcomed the ESP launch. (Photo Credit: Carina Bolanos Lewen)
Cutting-edge robot to ensure seafood quality
Monday, July 22, 2013, 02:30 (GMT + 9)
A groundbreaking Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) that identifies water microorganisms by analyzing their DNA is to be launched around Puget Sound, US. Its purpose will be to improve the safety of local seafood from naturally occurring threats.
This new technology, developed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Marine Research Institute, will revolutionize the way conventional water sample collections are gathered by providing scientists with almost real-time information so that they can protect local seafood thus boosting local seafood-based businesses.
The ESP, which is the first commercially available robotic sensor of its kind, gathers water samples and uses molecular probes to detect microorganisms by their DNA. The results are transmitted in near real-time to scientists using the cellular network.
"I can pull up the data and I can let all our stakeholders know straightaway if there is a risk of seafood being contaminated from these naturally occurring marine pathogens and micro-algae," said Stephanie Moore from NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Centre.
This technology will significantly improve current monitoring programmes in the Puget Sound, where there are blooms of harmful bacteria and algae in summer that threaten shellfish, finfish farms and humans.
Since scientists will be able to take precautionary measures, millions of dollars will be saved every year and shellfish farmers and health managers will be able to make decisions about harvesting and monitoring strategies to ensure that the seafood we eat is safe.
Up to now, this had been impossible to predict as harmful algae and bacteria can bloom extremely fast.
By Gabriela Raffaele