Microbial characterization of irrigation waters using rapid, inexpensive and portable next generation sequencing technologies
New microbial detection approaches utilizing whole genome sequencing are being increasingly applied for tracing microbial contaminants entering the food chain. The produce industry can directly benefit from powerful new methods such as shotgun metagenomics, which allows for the rapid identification of all the bacterial, viral, fungal, and protozoan pathogens in irrigation water, soil, or food samples in a single test. Furthermore, whole genome sequencing technologies are quickly becoming less expensive, and compact sequencing technologies like the Oxford Nanopore MinION device could potentially allow testing directly on-site in produce fields or other processing facilities for food safety surveillance programs. However, the application of these new whole genome sequencing technologies and approaches need to be verified and validated for use by the produce industry. The goal of this project is to investigate two technologies that offer slightly different approaches for pathogen detection, to identify the benefits and limitations of each, verify the results, and validate their applications by the produce industry for use in rapid pathogen detection in agricultural waters. The results of this study will provide recommendations, protocols and guidelines to the produce industry regarding the proper implementation of these technologies for pathogen surveillance.