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TDK conference 2021

The effects of certain disinfection methods on the microbiological purity of plants cultivated by indoor farming technology
Csomor Janka - year 6
University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest, Department of Food Hygiene
Supervisor: Nádaskiné Dr. Katalin Szakmár


The growing population of our Earth and urbanization have encouraged agriculture to create new methods and technologies, thus starting the first cultivation of plants indoors, i.e. indoor farming was established. It is important to maintain hygiene and measure the effectiveness of each hygienic step due to the high density of the plants cultivated. Hygiene plays a critical role not only in the shelf life of a product, but it has significant risk to public health from consuming an improperly treated plant. Because of that, continuous microbiological examination of crops is of high importance. It is also more and more common to assume that vegetables from indoor farming are cleaner than those produced in traditional agricultural fields, however it has not been proven by empirical data or studies yet.

In our research, we were interested in how each disinfection method effects the total germ count and mould count of our crops. We used 3 types of microgreens in our program, which were all produced by a startup company in Budapest. Cultivation took place using artificial LED light sources and special growing grids. Radish (Raphanus sativus), cress (Lepidium sativum), and sugar pea (Pisum sativum) seeds and later germinating plants were exposed to different disinfection methods, including hyperol treatment and the ozone disinfection of the cultivating areas.

We examined the effect of seed disinfection to the microbiological purity of the grown plant, for which we used 0,78% and 1,5% hyperol solution. We also applied hyperol wash at the end of the germination phase. At the same time we created a control group of untreated seeds. We used ozone disinfection as well, where 40 ppb ozone was applied to one of the cultivating rooms, while at the same time in the other room cultivation was carried out without using ozone.

The total germ count of the initially tested untreated samples decreased from 10^8 depending on the number of treatments, but the best results were achieved with the sugar pea, where the total germ count could be reduced to 10^3. The numbers were not as significant with the radish and cress microgreens, but the microbiological status could be improved with the reduction of the total germ count of these types. Our research proved that we can still produce plants of acceptable hygiene using indoor farming technologies, but other comparative research is needed in the future to examine the microbiological differences of crops using indoor farming and traditional agricultural methods.

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