Team:FDR-HB Peru/Description

Project Description

Our catalyst...

In the world we live in today, where social differences overrule power, and the quality of the product can really change in a matter of seconds, we must pay attention to our surroundings, where the problem lies, and try our best to help. This is the story of the cacao industry and how cadmium affects it. We have assembled a team, full of science enthusiasts, designers, collaborators and thinkers, to work on our two-phase project that will take us into 2022 to:

  • Develop a cadmium detection sensor that allows farmers in Peru to quickly test for different cadmium levels in cacao. 
  • To educate the farming population on topics relating to cadmium pollution, testing, and bioremediation. 
  • Develop a method using baker's yeast (S.cerevisiae) to perform bioremediation on cadmium contaminated cacao liquor/powder to enable farmers with a product that has quantities of cadmium that would comply with international regulations. 
  • To promote a safer cacao product for consumption. 

Our Peruvian soil, water, and air are contaminated by this heavy metal, which infiltrates our bodies through the food we eat, and the cacao produce that we are so fond of. Through human activities such as illegal mining, cadmium can end up in rivers and soil where the toxic metal can infiltrate the food chain, and humans end up consuming the intoxicated plants and animals. Unaware of the presence of this element in our soil and food, many have yet to learn the  dangers it poses to our overall health.  One cacao bean takes hours of work to produce, transport, and sell, hours that shouldn't go to waste.

Synthetic Biology Engineering 

In order to extract the cadmium from the cocoa liquor/cocoa powder, we are going to genetically modify baker's yeast (S. cerevisiae) to perform bioremediation through cadmium hyperaccumulation. We will achieve this by modifying genes involved in metal transportation and assimilation such as CCC1, TaPCS1, BSD2, and SMF1. Also, for the process of separating yeast with cadmium from cocoa powder/cocoa liquor, we plan on accomplishing induced magnetization in yeast by cultivating it in an environment with iron-supplemented media. That way we can use magnets to direct the cadmium contaminated yeast away from the cocoa liquor/cocoa powder. And then, the cocoa liquor/cocoa powder could be safely used for the creation of the various products and consumption.