Recent advances in biosensor technology for food security and its sustainability: by Dr. Mir Wakas Alam

The growing human population, the preservation of clean resources and the quality of food, and the protection of the climate and the environment pose significant challenges to current food production. Technical progress in food processing, quality assurance, disaster management identification labels, diagnostics and prevention are essential to achieving the goal of regional and global food security. Ensuring food sustainability is largely a joint effort involving both government and technological development of the private sector. Several attempts have been made to address these difficulties and improve the engines of food production. Agriculture is looking for advanced real-time, low-cost portable technologies to improve consumer livelihoods and resource use. As a result, there is a growing demand for biosensor technology in the field of food sustainability. Through molecular recognition materials, antigen-antibody interactions and subsequent transmission mechanisms, recent advances in biosensitivity technology and materials science have played a critical role in understanding the dynamics of agricultural processes. Biosensors are used in clinical, environmental, agricultural and nutritional analyzes, among other biological fields. The stability, accessibility, sensitivity and repeatability of a biosensor are important factors for its performance. Nanomaterials with their biosensor technology are considered the most promising tools to address the health, energy and environmental challenges affecting the global population. Therefore, this study will summarize the role of biosensors in the food industry, production, security, waste treatment, packaging and engineering.

Our ability to survive and live with food production is crucial to the planet’s ability to sustain the continued expansion of its human population. Rapid population growth, the preservation of healthy resources and food quality, as well as the protection of the climate and the environment create significant difficulties for the ongoing processes of food production. These difficulties are caused by various factors, some of which are related to the food industry itself. The development of technology that can ensure food safety is largely a product of cooperation between business and government. Blockchain technology, for example, will speed up communication between the media, consumers and food quality, creating new problems in food safety. Prerequisites for the development of agriculture are developed infrastructures, such as information technology, irrigation, energy resources and transport. Technical advances, such as the adoption of new technologies and financial investment in research and development, also contribute to the expansion and economic adaptability of the food sector.

Biosensors are currently gaining popularity in all industries from farm to fork, as they are one of the new and innovative trends and flows in agriculture. The biosensor is defined as a stand-alone integrated tool for reading and characterizing materials. The development of biosensors has gone through several stages. Originally different from previous generations, converters and biocatalysts later became so closely intertwined that removing one would impair the performance of the other. There is no longer a requirement for a mediator in current biosensors. The enzyme decreases directly on the electrode surface in this form of biosensor.

The biosensor is essentially an analytical instrument used to measure a target molecule in a sample. A biodegradable component (eg, aptamer, antibody, or enzyme) that is specific to the target is usually included. A physicochemical or biological signal is produced when a molecular recognition event occurs between the recognition element and the target substance. The signal is then transformed into a quantifiable amount by the transducer. The signals can be displayed in electrical (eg voltammetry, impedance or capacitance), optical (eg colorimetric, fluorescent, chemiluminescence and surface plasmon resonance) or various selected formats.

There are five main obstacles to the sustainability of food production: 1) the production challenge in terms of food security and safety; 2) the quality challenge in terms of food diversity and quality; 3) the economic challenge of regulating the food system, including its packaging and supply chain; 4) the environmental challenge in terms of food waste processing; and 5) the engineering challenge of creating and generating novel foods. All five of the key concerns mentioned above are being addressed by the growing need for biosensor technologies. New energy sources are one of the problems, as the current dependence on fossil fuels has limited their availability and has negative consequences for the environment. Bioelectrochemical systems (BES) are appearing in research on sustainable electricity, chemical production, resource recovery and waste recovery to tackle the energy dilemma. These unusual systems use bacteria as catalysts derived from organic waste, such as lignocellulosic biomass and low-strength wastewater, which can be converted in both directions between chemical energy and electricity. These systems can be designed to generate electricity that can be used to remove persistent substances, recover metals and nutrients, or produce hydrogen, caustic and peroxide.

The use of technology in agriculture has opened new avenues for global food sustainability. The agricultural industry is rapidly adopting consumer-friendly technologies. For the whole agricultural community (farmers, researchers and end-users), biosensors have created a new entry point in precision and intelligent agriculture. Depending on the type of bio-recognition system used, agricultural biosensors can be categorized. Antibody-antigen, enzyme-coenzyme substrate and complementary nucleic acid sequences are often used in biodecognition systems. Microorganisms, plants, animals and human tissue can be used as components for biodecognition. Depending on the signal transduction method, biosensors can be categorized as electrochemical, optical, piezoelectric or magnetic. Analytical chemistry, which plays the role of quality control in food analysis, is a pioneering field in the growing applications of nanomaterials in biosensors. As it ensures that the characteristics and safety of the product are acceptable to consumers, quality control is important in the monitoring of food and beverages. Chemical analysis can monitor the quality of food and beverages to ensure their composition, structure, nutrition and microbial characteristics. The specificity, sensitivity and limits of detection of chemical analysis are improved by the addition of nanomaterials allowing detection at the femtomolar level. Using biosensor technology, they provide rapid detection of pathogens in agriculture. Compared to more sophisticated technologies such as electrochemical, fluorescent, ultraviolet (UV) -Vis and high performance liquid chromatography, nanomaterial-based biosensors are considered cutting-edge devices with faster, simpler and cheaper solutions. HPLC). To prevent food damage from microorganisms and toxins, nanodiamonds can be used as biosensors and food additives in packaging. Nanodiamond particles in food packaging have been shown to improve flexibility, durability and resistance to moisture, temperature changes and possibly improve anaerobic and antibacterial conditions. The main problems with nanotechnology and food packaging are their potential negative impacts on human health, their immediate and long-term impact on the environment, and the lack of rules and regulations specifically targeted at nanomaterials.

Food contamination is a major concern for global health. Pollution can occur in several ways. While physical pollution is considered one of the main concerns, the presence of higher amounts of metal compounds, ie. Iron Zn, mercury, lead in the food product can greatly affect health. That is why it is important to detect this contamination. Biosensors for food quality management and access have been created. For example, a biosensor that can detect harmful substances has been developed with hanging anthracene units and an on / off function based on water-soluble biocompatible oligoaziridine. Recently, a nanocomposite for many applications, including glucose sensor, antibacterial and dye degradation. Biosensors based on gold nanoparticles have been used in the design of biosensors for the detection of many pollutants and allergens (Z Hua et al., 2021). Another research find has designed a gold nanoparticle-based biosensor to detect food pathogens in a cost-effective way. Graphene-based biosensors for the detection of various contaminants in food have been studied by (Iva et al. 2018). The article discusses various methods and applications of graphene and carbon-based biosensors for the detection of chemical contaminants in food products. Our research team also recently investigated the use of a metal oxide nanocomposite based on a new triple copper-zinc-manganese as a heterogeneous catalyst for the detection of glucose and antibacterial activity (Alam et al. 2022).

Sustainable food production makes extensive use of biosensors with electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. Other advanced biosensors focus on powerful adjustable functions that can be turned on or off in response to an external signal. A revolutionary analytical method for food analysis is the integration of electrochemical microfluidic technologies and cell culture technologies. The application of nanotechnology in many industries has increased significantly since it first appeared in agriculture. These industries include those that produce food, protect crops, detect pathogens and toxins, purify water, package food, treat wastewater and restore the environment.

In summary, the three main areas where food sustainability faces obstacles are the application of nanomaterials in sustainable agriculture, energy sustainability issues and the marketing of sustainable technologies. The safety of a biosensor for human health is a key component in determining its future; therefore, only biosensors and related technologies with little or no negative impact on human health will be commercially successful. Although it is crucial to take into account the urgent requirements for ensuring food quality and safety when developing a biosensor for sustainable food production, it is also vital to ensure that the biosensor itself is safe for humans, as non-compliance this would prevent its commercialization.

Finally, I would like to thank the Scientific Chairman of Al Bilad Bank for Food Security in Saudi Arabia, the Dean of Research, the Vice President for Postgraduate Studies and Research, King Faisal University, Saudi Arabia for supporting this project under a grant project № CHAIR69 .

Dr. Mir Wakas Alam. Scientific Chairman of Al Bilad Bank for Food Security in Saudi Arabia, Dean of Research, Vice President of Postgraduate Studies and Research and Department of Physics, College of Science, King Faisal University, Al-Ahsa 31982, Saudi Arabia.

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