Project on (open source) low-cost food soil water air monitoring

Hi, just created a page for our hopefully upcoming project (in the process of applying/looking for funding).
Images for open-source low-cost tools, to be used in combination with up-cycled/refurbished ones, have to be considered just a “starting point” at the moment.
Tips etc always welcome!

PS I finacially supported and saw the presentation of your open soil research at 36c3 (Chaos Communication Congress in Leipzig) and found it very interesting: I hope to be able to interact with your initiative at some point


(open source) in brackets? what does that mean :slight_smile:

i also hope we can cook something up together. Ischia Napoli we are coming!!!

We would love to co-operate, otherwise I would not have posted it here :-). Personally I would also love to be as open source as possible: nevertheless, it is possible that for a variety of reasons we might end up with a combination of upcycled/refurbished tools and open source low-cost ones as stated above.

hej vittorio,
the context of your project looks really interesting. is it only focused on sensors/hardware, or would it also be interesting for you to experiment with other approaches? e.g. regeneration of contaminated soil via mycoremediation and other biological techniques?

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of course, julian. the techno-scientific part is still under definition so we’re definitely open to other approaches. We were suggested also some protocols on some kinds of yeast which is said to be able to show different behavior in the presence of mutagens in the so-called ames test. I can share more details if you are interested…

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ames test in bacteria is what I have heard about, but never done. would be super to try.
we also have assayed just for E. coli (bioindicator for raw sewage contamination)…

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that’s what the forum is about :slight_smile:

@raronoff @dusjagr @julian @mamaya Here it is: I was discussing the above project with Sebastian Cocioba and Paige Whitehead after the last Biosummit (I guess you may either know or have heard of both of them) and they recommended me to perform a sort of Ames test using this yeast
As some of you know, I am not a biologist (but if our project gets to start we will have also “scientists” in the team): that being said, if I got it correctly this yeast is used to detect mutagens via the Ames test because it lacks the ability to synthesize histadine but when exposed to a suspected mutagen that would alter this “feature” of its.
They also specified that Ames test is about general mutagenicity (ie, not specific) and that the “most straightforward would be soil tests for heavy metals but that can get pricey”.
if I understand correctly, the Ames test, which at least according to the English Wikipedia is “often used as one of the initial screens for potential drugs to weed out possible carcinogens, and it is one of the eight tests required in the United States under the Pesticide Act and one of six tests required under the Toxic Substances Control Act.”
So, have you got experience/interest in this Ames Test and/or in low-cost or at least “less expensive than standard” soil test procedures? Any other tips/ideas?
(This might be a complex/wide topic) More in general, how significant would the presence of mutagens in soil be for edible crops grown there?

this is a big topic you are opening here.

i used the ames test about 10 years ago in the lab and it is quite easy and cheap. but it does not tell you anything about heavy metal pollution. there are other more suitable experiments, probably also usable in a diy context… i’ll try to find some time to research those in the next days.

concerning the crops: some plants and fungi like to accumulate heavy metals ( they can also be used to restore the soil.

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Thank you Julian. Are you (or any others reading, of course :-)) familiar with studies trying to investigate the presence of mutagens in the soil and their absorption/impact levels on plants, especially crops? (I mean, which crops tend to absorb/be impacted more by which mutagens in the “same soil”)

hi @vittorio.m,

there is another interesting forum to discuss more focused on Soil and Agriculture started by @gbathree and others around GOAT, Gathering for Open Agricultural Technologies.

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Thanks a lot, Marc. Sadly we did not pass the ledger call preselection process with this project but we will try to look for other possibilities…

@vittorio.m it’s important to differentiate between mutagens and heavy metals: you want neither of those in your food, but they act in very different ways - so the detection also has to use very different methods.

As you said, the Ames test is suitable for an unspecific detection of mutagens. For heavy metal detection, other techniques have to be used. I found a nice paper that gives an overview of Biosensors in this field:

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just to mention, I have used biosensor bacteria for arsenic especially, and Sachiko did things with the mercury sensor. We have a new Hackuarium member that is just gearing up for classic Ames tests in bacteria. (I have never done these, but am keen to try this with him, and I also have experience with comet assays and micronuclei assays on inner cheek cells. Some heavy metals can definitely induce micronuclei…)

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