Allergen-free peanuts, auto-dry grapes among 2014 agriculture innovations

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Screen capture from USDA report

An image from the cover of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's new report on innovations.

New technology that better detects dangerous pathogens, a method to remove allergens from peanuts and a grape that turns into a raisin in the field.

These are just a few of the innovations highlighted in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “technology transfer” report released on Wednesday. The report highlights the new inventions, safety measures and other innovations stemming from agriculture research.

“USDA has a proven track record of performing research that has tangible benefits for the American public, and studies have found every dollar invested in agricultural research returns $20 to our economy,” said department Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement.

Among the innovations:

  • USDA-funded researchers at Purdue University’s Center for Food Safety Engineering created a portable method for identifying harmful bacteria in food using newly designed instruments. During a test, the new devices detected Salmonella in peanut butter within a day with near 100-percent accuracy. Currently, the USDA’s detection method require about 72 hours.
  • North Carolina A&T University scientists developed a way to remove up to 98 percent of allergens from peanuts. More than 2.8 million people in the United States have some degree of peanut allergies. Researchers remove the bulk of the allergens by soaking roasted peanuts that have bene shelled and skinned in a solution containing enzymes.
  • Agricultural Research Services scientists in California engineered a new raisin grape that dries naturally on the vine. The new variety could dramatically reduce production costs.
  • Cornell University scientists worked on ways to develop a broccoli industry in the eastern United States. Popularity in the vegetable has skyrocketed in recent years, and the specialty crop is now worth nearly a billion dollars a year.

“USDA is now accelerating the commercialization of federal research, and government researchers are working closely with the private sector to develop new technology and transfer it to the marketplace,” Vilsack said.

The mass production of penicillin during World War II and frozen orange juice concentrate are among the USDA’s more famous innovations.

According to the report, USDA received a total of 83 patents in 2014, an increase of more than 30 from the previous year.

The report includes information on more than a dozen USDA agencies.


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