IBM and Mars introduce a new consortium to ensure global food safety


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IBM Research and Mars have collaborated to establish a food safety platform called Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain to make advancements in genomics and to investigate food microbiome to boost safety and productivity.

Experts from IBM Research aim to sequence the food supply chain to develop means to prevent bacteria that contaminates food and leads to several deaths.

The consortium plans to conduct a study on metagenomics to categorise and understand characteristics of micro-organisms and factors that influence their activity in a normal, safe factory environment.

IBM Research, Almaden vice-president Jeff Welser said: "Genome sequencing serves as a new kind of microscope, one that uses data to peer deeply into our natural environment to uncover insights that were previously unknowable.

"By mining insights from genomic data, we are seeking to understand how to identify, interpret and ultimately create healthy and protective microbial management systems within the food supply chain."

"Data will be sorted in a systematic way so these testing techniques can be used widely at an affordable price."

The scientists will probe into the genetic fingerprints of living organisms such as bacteria, fungi or viruses and also on their growth in different environments. Data collected will be used to study how bacteria interact.

The first data samples will be collected at production facilities owned by Mars. IBM's genomics, healthcare and analytics experts will carry out their investigation at IBM's Accelerated Discovery THINKLab.

Data will be sorted in a systematic way so these testing techniques can be used widely at an affordable price.

Mars Corporate Research and Development vice-president Dave Crean said: "We are excited to be working with IBM Research on this, and look forward to welcoming additional partners in the future to help drive global innovation in genomics, food, and agriculture."


Image: Scientists aim to study metagenomics to categorise and understand characteristics of micro-organisms. Photo: courtesy of IBM.