Centre-funded innovation: Bathinda univ researcher makes mobile App to detect adulterants in spices

A pharmaceutical science expert from Maharaja Ranjit Singh Punjabi Technical University (MRSPTU) has developed a first-of-its-kind mobile phone application to detect adulteration in unprocessed spices and herbs.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based innovation is an outcome of a project funded by the department of science and technology of the Centre government.

Backed by a 92% accuracy rate, Q-Check application is scheduled to be released next month by the union government, says the university authorities.

The man behind the innovation, Prof Ashish Baldi from the Bathinda-based university’s department of pharmaceutical science technology, said the system works in a way in which algorithms are incorporated into a mobile phone application which analyses the database in the server.

Initially, the researcher used AI to detect adulteration in 12 different varieties of common spices- black pepper, turmeric, cardamom, cumin, fennel and red chill.

Each of these spices has about 5,000 high-resolution photographs taken from different angles in the database.

“When a photo of the given spice is uploaded on the mobile application, technological intervention allows the process to minutely study the given features including colour, and physical appearance and gives the results quickly. It also matches the samples with the common adulterants whose database is also present in the server,” said Baldi.

The application can analyse samples only when their photo is taken with white background.

In 2020, MRSPTU was mandated to develop an interactive device for the quality evaluation of Indian spices using computational techniques and the results were submitted last month.

“Food adulteration is a deceptive act of misleading food buyers for economic gain. It has been a major concern due to its risk to public health, reduction of food quality or nutritional value,” said Baldi, also dean of research and development.

He adds seeds of papaya and nigella species or kalonji are commonly mixed with black pepper, whereas seeds of citrus fruits are used to adulterate cardamom.

Similarly, poor-quality fennel is coloured to mix with cumin.

MRSPTU has also successfully tested the high commercial value herb of Ashoka and commonly used giloy for adulteration with the same AI intervention.

“Besides helping a common man, the overwhelming results would build a healthy trade ecosystem with easy adulteration detection. We can build a database to detect adulteration in other food items using the new age technology,” he added.

The app was subjected to an in-house validation with a detailed sample analysis of spices and herbs.

MRSPTU vice chancellor Prof Boota Singh Sidhu said the new age technology has a pivotal role to play in food science. Innovation by Baldi will help in setting a benchmark in detecting adulteration in food items, he added.

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