A growing population, maintaining clean resources and food quality, and protecting the climate and environment all pose serious challenges to modern food production. Technological progress in food processing, quality assurance, identification marks for disaster management, diagnostics and prevention are urgently needed to achieve the goal of regional and global food security. Ensuring food sustainability is largely a collaborative effort that includes technology development by both the government and the private sector. Several attempts have been made to address these difficulties and improve the driving forces behind food production. Advanced portable, low-cost, real-time technologies are being sought in agriculture to improve consumer livelihoods and resource utilization. As a result, there is a growing demand for biosensor technologies in the field of food sustainability. Through molecular recognition materials, antigen-antibody interactions, and subsequent transmission mechanisms, recent advances in biosensor 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 analysis, among other biological fields. The stability, availability, sensitivity, and reproducibility of a biosensor are important factors in its performance. Nanomaterials, with their biosensor technology, are considered the most promising tools to address the health, energy and environmental challenges that affect the world’s population. Therefore, this study will summarize the role of biosensing in the food industry, manufacturing, safety, waste management, packaging, and engineering.
Our ability to survive and live alongside food production is critical to the planet’s ability to sustain a steady increase in population. Rapid population growth, the preservation of healthy resources and food quality, and climate and environmental protection pose significant challenges to current food production processes. These difficulties are caused by many factors, some of which are related to the food industry itself. The development of technologies capable of ensuring food safety is mainly the result of collaboration between businesses and governments. Blockchain technology, for example, will speed up communication between the media, consumers and food quality professionals, creating new food safety challenges. A prerequisite for the development of agriculture is developed infrastructures such as information technology, the irrigation sector, energy resources and transport. Technological advances, such as the introduction of new technologies and financial investment in research and development, are also driving the expansion and economic adaptation of the food production sector.
Biosensors are now growing in popularity across all industries from farm to fork as they are one of the new and innovative trends and trends in agriculture. A biosensor is defined as a stand-alone integrated instrument for the detection and characterization of a material. 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 degrade the performance of the other. Modern biosensors no longer require a mediator. In this form of biosensor, the amount of the enzyme is reduced directly on the electrode surface.
A biosensor is essentially an analytical instrument used to measure a target molecule in a sample. Typically, a biorecognition component (eg, an aptamer, antibody, or enzyme) specific to the target is included. A physiochemical or biological signal occurs when a molecular recognition event occurs between the recognition element and the target substance. The signal is then converted by the converter into a quantitative value. The signals may be displayed in electrical (eg, voltammetric, impedance, or capacitive), optical (eg, colorimetric, fluorescent, chemiluminescent, and surface plasmon resonance) or other selected format.
There are five major barriers to sustainable food production: 1) a production problem related to food safety and security; 2) the problem of quality in relation to the variety and quality of food; 3) the economic problem associated with the regulation of the food system, including its packaging and supply chain; 4) the environmental problem of processing food waste; and 5) the engineering challenge associated with the creation and production of new food products. All five of the above key challenges are being addressed by the growing demand for biosensor technologies. New energy sources are one of the challenges, as the current reliance on fossil fuels limits their availability and has a negative impact on the environment. Bioelectrochemical systems (BES) are emerging in research on sustainable energy sources, chemical production, resource recovery, and waste management to address the energy dilemma. These unusual systems use bacteria as catalysts derived from organic wastes such as lignocellulosic biomass and low concentration wastewater, which can be converted in both directions between chemical energy and electrical energy. These systems can be set up to generate electricity that can be used to remove persistent substances, recover metals and nutrients, or produce hydrogen, caustics and peroxide.
The use of technology in agriculture has opened up new opportunities for achieving global food sustainability. The agricultural industry is rapidly adopting convenient technologies. For the entire agricultural community (farmers, researchers and end users), biosensors have opened up a new entry point into precision and smart agriculture. Depending on the type of biorecognition system used, agricultural biosensors can be divided into categories. Antigen-antibody, enzyme-coenzyme-substrate, and complementary nucleic acid sequences are often used in biorecognition systems. Microorganisms, plants, animals and human tissues can be used as biorecognition components. According to the method of signal transmission, biosensors can be divided into electrochemical, optical, piezoelectric and magnetic. Analytical chemistry, which plays a role in quality control in food analysis, is a pioneer in the growing application of nanomaterials in biosensors. Because it ensures that product properties and safety are acceptable to consumers, quality control plays an important role in food and beverage monitoring. Chemical analysis can track the quality of food and beverages to ascertain their composition, structure, nutrients, and microbial characteristics. The specificity, sensitivity, and detection limits of chemical assays are improved by the addition of nanomaterials, allowing detection at the femtomolar level. Using biosensor technology, they provide rapid pathogen detection in agriculture. Compared to more established technologies such as electrochemical, fluorescence, ultraviolet (UV)-visible and high performance liquid chromatography, nanomaterial-based biosensors are considered advanced devices with faster, simpler and less expensive solutions (e.g. HPLC). To prevent microorganisms and toxins from damaging food products, nanodiamonds can be used as biosensors and food additives in packaging. Nanodiamond particles in food packaging have been shown to increase flexibility, durability, and resistance to humidity, temperature change, and possibly also improve anaerobic and antibacterial conditions. The main concerns with nanotechnology and food packaging are their potential negative impacts on human health, their immediate and long-term environmental impacts, and the lack of rules and regulations specifically for nanomaterials.
Food contamination is a major health problem worldwide. Infection can occur in several ways. Whereas, physical pollution is considered to be one of the main problems where the presence of elevated amounts of metal compounds i.e. iron, zinc, mercury, lead in foods can greatly affect health. Therefore, it is important to detect this contamination. Biosensors have been created to control and access food quality. For example, a biosensor that can detect harmful substances has been designed with hanging anthracene blocks and an on/off function based on a water-soluble biocompatible oligoaziridine. Recently, a single nanocomposite has emerged for numerous applications including glucose sensor, antibacterial agents, and dye degradation. Biosensors based on gold nanoparticles have been used in the development of biosensors for the detection of numerous pollutants and allergens (Z Hua et al., 2021). Another study developed a biosensor based on gold nanoparticles for the cost-effective detection of foodborne pathogens. Graphene based biosensors for in situ detection of various food contaminants have been studied (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 recently also investigated the use of a metal oxide nanocomposite based on a novel copper-zinc-manganese ternary compound as a heterogeneous catalyst for glucose detection and antibacterial activity (Alam et al 2022).
Biosensors with electrochemical impedance spectroscopy are widely used in sustainable food production. Other advanced biosensors focus on powerful adjustable features that can be turned on and off in response to an external signal. A revolutionary analytical method for food analysis is the integration of electrochemical microfluidic and cell culture technologies. The application of nanotechnologies in many industries has increased significantly since they first appeared in agriculture. These industries include food production, crop protection, pathogen and toxin detection, water treatment, food packaging, wastewater treatment, and environmental restoration.
Thus, the three main areas where food sustainability faces barriers 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 adverse effects on human health will achieve commercial success. While it is critical to consider critical food quality and safety requirements when developing a biosensor to ensure the sustainability of food production, it is also vital to ensure that the biosensor itself is safe for humans, as failure to do so will prevent its commercialization.
Finally, I would like to thank the Al Bilad Bank Academic Supervisor for Food Security in Saudi Arabia, Dean of Science, Vice President for Graduate Studies and Research, King Faisal University, Saudi Arabia, for supporting this project under Project Grant No. CHAIR69.
Dr. Mir Wakas Alam. Scientific Chairman of Al Bilad Bank for Food Security in Saudi Arabia, Dean of Science Research, Vice President of Graduate Studies and Research and Department of Physics, King Faisal University College of Science, Al Ahsa 31982, Saudi Arabia.