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Hort Innovation: Electrochemical pest detection - research partnership

Opportunity for

  • Researchers, start-up, scale-up, SME’s, solution providers with research service delivery capability focused on electrochemical sensor technology.

Opportunity description

Industry challenge:

Phytosanitary measures are applied to goods and conveyance to reduce the spread of exotic plant pests around the world, however, there is no practical solution for the ongoing detection of these pests in transit to ensure phytosanitary integrity throughout the supply chain.

The ability to detect pests present in a consignment before reaching its destination would allow the prompt treatment of those goods or moving them to a non-sensitive market without jeopardising market access to the original market.

Barriers to testing in transit include the sheer scale of potential plant pests for consideration, the specificity required, and the cost and timeliness of testing. This results in more expensive testing and treatments needed at ports of loading and first points of entry to provide assurance that the risk of introducing an exotic plant pest meets a country's Appropriate Level of Protection (ALOP).

Electrochemical detection is an analytical technique used in medicine (e.g., blood glucose monitors, breathalysers) and the environment (electrochemical carbon monoxide and oxygen sensors) but has not been applied for the detection of invasive pests. What is needed to apply this technique to the detection of invasive pests is knowledge of what volatile organic compounds (VOC) a pest emits and then to construct an electrochemical cell tuned to that VOC.

This project aims to create electrochemical sensors for some high-priority plant pests that are exotic to Australia and several endemic pests of concern to Australian horticultural exports, including being able to test for multiple pests simultaneously. The ability to make a low-cost, tuneable sensor for placement in shipping consignments, mostly containers, is important along with the pathway to market. Other areas for consideration include the ability to detect bee pests in hives (e.g., Varroa, and tracheal mites) and other areas on conveyances where hitchhiker pests may commonly hide, such as aircraft holds and air cans, and the interior holds of ships.

Current opportunity:

Hort Innovation are seeking proposals from researchers, start-up, scale-up, SME’s, solution providers to provide research services to develop a system for using in-transit electrochemical sensors to identify exotic pests that may hitchhike to Australia and endemic pests that may be present in Australian exports to sensitive markets.

The outcome of the research includes:

  • Improved in-transit detection of high-priority plant pests through the development of prototype electrochemical sensors and detection methods
  • Enhanced knowledge of the sensitivity and specificity of electrochemical sensors for targeting plant pests.

Respondents are expected to source and provide co-funding to support their proposal. Only cash co-funding can be leveraged.

In-kind support, while acknowledged, cannot be leveraged. If co-funding is not available, you are encouraged to speak with Hort Innovation prior to responding to this RFP to discuss potential collaborative approaches to seeking third party co-investment. It is important to note that the program selection criteria used to short-list respondents includes the availability of co-funding or the ability to source co-funding for the proposed program. If co-funding is not available, this will affect the ranking of the proposal during the evaluation process.

How to apply:

To find out more information and submit an application click ‘visit website’. To speak to the Hort Innovation team, ‘Enquire now’.

Opportunity type

Research partner

Express interest by

Friday, 3 March 2023, 3:00pm (AEDT)
Visit website


Any (TRL 1-9)
For opportunities that are seeking solutions providers who are at any stage of readiness.
What does this mean?
Describes the stage of the challenge or opportunity being pursued.

Opportunity led by

Multiple industries
Alternative protein Cross industry Fruits Nuts Other rural industries Pasture, fodder & feed Vegetables

Hort Innovation

Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australia's horticulture industry. As one of the nation's 15 Rural …

Multiple industries
Alternative protein Cross industry Fruits Nuts Other rural industries Pasture, fodder & feed Vegetables
  • Location


  • Organisation type

    Research funding body

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  • Led by

    Hort Innovation

  • Opportunity type

    Licensing, Research partner, Field trial, Seeking partners

  • Readiness
    Mid (TRL 5-7)
    Proof of concept in the laboratory then in the field resulting in the development of a minimum viable product (MVP).

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