Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, Some Scientists Bring the Bench Home

 In Media

The Scientist, the magazine for life science professionals—a publication dedicated to covering a wide range of topics central to the study of cell and molecular biology, genetics, and other life-science fields, covered science at home during the pandemic and featured our “lab@home” project.

Excerpt from The Scientist about TeakOrigin:

“…Researchers at TeakOrigin, a food-data company, created an entire initiative dubbed “lab@home.” Under normal circumstances, the company purchases thousands of fruits and vegetables from different grocers in Boston and Los Angeles and scans each piece using optical spectrometers designed to detect levels of different vitamins and nutrients. The team publishes data comparing the quality of fruits and vegetables found in each store each week online for consumers to access for free. It also partners with companies in the food supply chain to help improve the quality of the food they produce. After the analyses are done, they donate the food.

Brent Overcash, the cofounder and CEO of TeakOrigin, tells The Scientist those studies stopped in March out of an abundance of caution. “We didn’t feel good buying so much food that we normally buy in an environment where we might have scarcity,” he says.

But produce quality is just one of the company’s research projects. The spectrometers the scientists use are designed so that they can be carried into the field and used on fruits and vegetables that haven’t even been picked yet, so they can learn about the ideal times to harvest. “I can put the device on [the food,] pull the trigger, and in 30 seconds get an answer,” says Overcash. That portability has allowed his employees to turn lemons into lemonade.

Now, instead of testing huge quantities of foods, the scientists are using the scanners at home to conduct replicate analyses on smaller quantities of produce over the course of several days to see how their nutrients degrade over time. For example, strawberries may have more vitamin C than tomatoes to begin with, but as they’re waiting to be eaten, the tomatoes may end up with more.  “You learn something entirely different by scanning the same thing over and over and over, over the course of a number of days,” he says.”

Read the full article here.

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