Bionutrient Meter

Cropping and reading the nutrient density of beetroot at Abbey Home Farm, Gloucestershire, with the Bionutrient Meter

Grffn is supporting the development of a Bionutrient Meter that’s currently being developed to test fruits and vegetables, in real time, for nutrient density.  The inspiration for this comes from the Bionutrient Food Association (BFA) based in the USA. You can read the BFA’s summary report here to discover the variation in nutrient density of carrots and spinach

Grffn will partner with the BFA and mirror the work they are doing in the UK. 

The Bionutrient Meter uses spectroscopy, a trusted technology which has been shrunk into a small hand-held device. Using a series of LED lights it fires a light beam at the sample and records the reflectance at different frequencies. For example, when testing carrots, the light that is reflected will be different if the sample contains only a few nutrients compared to one which is nutrient dense. 

A database is being built to enable the calibration of the scanner, using data from numerous samples of each type of fruit and vegetable. Results from the Bionutrient Meter can then be matched to known values of nutrients. The more samples that are collected, the higher the accuracy of the device, which is why we are asking people to get involved.

Participants will collect and send samples of fruits, vegetables and the soils they were grown in to The James Hutton Institute in Scotland, our UK laboratory. The lab will test samples to determine levels of minerals, trace minerals, proteins, polyphenols and antioxidants. They will also test the soils they were grown in for microbial life, soil carbon and organic matter. With some additional details from the growers, the results will be uploaded to an open-source database that will allow growers to log on and find their unique results and compare them against others.

The benefits of this information will:

  • Expose variation of nutrient density of UK fruits and vegetables
  • Set a meaningful measure of success based on health that relates to regenerative, organic practices
  • Create the opportunity to compare results nationally and internationally from participating countries.
  • Empower growers to understand the best way to grow better food
  • Incentivise markets to encourage citizens to demand better quality food and build trust with the ability to self-certify healthy food and soils using the Bionutrient Meter.

Since 2017, the Bionutrient Institute and partners have built over 300 hand-held spectrometers for testing purposes, initiated a citizen science project and tested over 3,000 samples comprising carrots & spinach (2018) plus lettuce, kale, cherry tomatoes and grapes (2019).

  • Farm practices that are widely believed to increase soil biology, such as cover cropping and no-till, was found to be above the median.
  • Biodynamically certified produce was below the median. Organically certified produce was around the median, and Organic but not certified was above the median.
  • Hydroponic & greenhouse-grown produce was below the median.
  • Taste can serve as a useful indicator in predicting nutrient content in produce.