Nutrient Content In A 1-Second Scan


A team of Texas A&M researchers found that spectroscopy may have a new use in food production from the field to the grocery store.

Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists have demonstrated the first quick, accurate, non-destructive and portable way to scan produce for nutrient content. The same easy scan can identify diseases in living plants before symptoms appear.

Dmitry Kurouski, assistant professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the Texas A&M University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, led a team in this new application of Raman spectroscopy. The results were published in the chemistry journal ACS Omega.

“The method could someday be used to quickly estimate the economic value of grain in a field or grain elevator, or predict grain’s starch content,” Kurouski said. “This could change the economy for farmers and consumers.”

Raman spectroscopy measures how molecules scatter harmless laser light. A handheld scanner the size of a kitchen scale was used on six red or yellow corn kernels. Each scan took about a second. From the data, the team could calculate levels of nutrients inside each grain: protein, carbohydrates, fiber and carotenoids. Currently, analyzing nutrient content either destroys the sample, is less accurate or is more time consuming than the team’s method. The team used the older methods to confirm the results.

“That’s huge,” Kurouski said. “When it comes to personal diet, if I have this technology, then I can scan food that I consume, determining its nutrient value right on the spot.”

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