One of the obvious concerns when we first settled on the sticker design was waste. Consumers eat fruit and throw stickers in the bin, or stick them somewhere they shouldn’t be. By mass-producing even more packaging in this way, we are perpetuating the issue of landfill and pollution.In conjunction with discussions we had with OzHarvest volunteers, it was agreed that the way to overcome this problem was to ensure our stickers are biodegradable. See Integrated Human Practices and Applied Design for more!
Our interaction with OzHarvest, a non-for-profit organisation, was extremely influential in the design selection of our product, as they emphasised the importance of biodegradability. Engagement in this way also provided more depth in our outreach efforts, because we were engaging with an audience already educated in the issue of food wastage.
Collaborating with other iGEM teams worldwide was an invaluable experience. We did extensive collaboration with the UNSW iGEM and Hamburg iGEM teams in particular, as well as engaging in minor collaboration with 6 other iGEM teams. On top of that, we connected with 46 more iGEM teams on Instagram. Check out the Collaboration page for more details!
Through Skype sessions and site visits, we engaged with Zespri Kiwifruit, Avocados Australia, and Fresh Produce Australia, to gain an insight into the context of our project. To find out more about how we used this information, check out the Integrated Human Practices page.
This aspect of our human practices was somewhat unplanned. It came about following a discussion about our amilCP mutants, and how they should be classified. These mutants have identical sequences as the wild type, with the exception of a single nucleotide. However, they are all vastly different colours. Is it appropriate to refer to them as amilCP variants, when amilCP is by definition blue? Or does a single mutation make them their own entity? If so, is it incorrect to class these mutants as “improvements” of the wild type? Read more discussion on the Theory of Knowledge page!
We took the biocircuitry of our biosensor that we made in the lab, and turned to engineering to design and assess the viability of a final biosensor product. This involved considering optimisation, immobilisation techniques, potential designs, initial sketches and prototyping. We also pitched our idea to a range of potential consumers, and worked with them to evolve our design. From there, a full plant sizing and costing was done to assess if the investment would provide a worthwhile return. For more about the business side of things, see the Business Plan page under Keep Fresh, or visit Applied Design for more biosensor design.
We engaged with people from as young as 4 years of age, up to 65+ years of age, and many between! Through numerous social events and workshops, we successfully taught thousands of people about synthetic biology, the importance of not squeezing fruit to see if it’s ripe, and introduced them to our project. To find out more about how we used this information, check out the Outreach page.
We conducted a survey on fresh produce consumption habits to gain an insight into the context of our project firsthand. We engaged with over 260 people from over 16 countries – at least one from every continent (except Antarctica)!
It was a great way to directly engage with other iGEM participants too, and generate global interest in our project.
As our project involves the use of biological materials in the context of the food industry, we investigated the government legislation behind microorganisms, especially genetically modified organisms (GMOS).The Australian government regulates GMOs in food through Standard 1.5.2 of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. Certain permitted GMOs are described in the subsection 1.5.2-3, which states:
A food for sale may consist of, or have as an ingredient, a food produced using gene technology if the food produced using gene technology:
• (a) is listed in Schedule 26 and complies with any corresponding conditions listed in that Schedule;
• or (b) is a substance that is permitted for use as a food additive by Standard 1.3.1 or as a processing aid by Standard 1.3.3.
Schedule 26 lists various permitted GMOS, including may herbicide-tolerant and insect-protected plant lines. GMOs are also permitted for use as food additives and, importantly, processing aids. Food additives perform some technological purpose in the final product, such as acting as a colouring or preservative. Processing aids perform a technological purpose at some point during the production process, but do not end up in the final product.
Certain enzymes of animal, plant and microbiological origin are permitted as processing aids, as listed in Schedule 18. Enzymes of microbiological origin that are permitted must be obtained from the specific organism listed. However, interestingly, ‘the sources listed in relation to enzymes of microbial origin may contain additional copies of genes from the same organism.’ With relevance to our project, our biosensor is clearly not listed as a permitted food additive or processing aid. However, perhaps it is neither. If it can be used as a device in the ripening facilities or shipping containers that never comes into contact with the fruit, then it would be neither food additive nor processing aid. In this context, it is necessary also to consider the potential for contamination, as there may be accidental contact between the biosensor and the fruit. Standard 1.6.1 details the regulations concerning microbiological limits in food, but this is mostly relevant for meats and dairy products which could be spoiled if the microbiological presence is too high. In any case, the design of our final product would need to reflect these concerns to either control for potential contamination or, ideally, remove the risk through a cell-free system.
One of our team members set out to design a card game that stylised various bacteria as little monsters. The card game was intended to be both educational and fun, introducing some of the more common bacteria that are involved in food and health to the wider community. To keep things simple, the game was going to have standard “top trumps” style rules, with categories like “pathogenicity” and “antibiotic resistance.” More complicated words would be bolded, with a reference list explaining these words in an educational way. Although the project was not completed, it remains an idea that will be pursued in the future. You can see some of the designs below.
We also created our own series of hand-sewn versions of our microbes! Doing so allowed us to engage with a younger audience in a way that was more specific to our project. We had generated a great response during outreach events using other store-bought, general fluffy microbes, so we knew that making our own relevant ones would be a great tool.