Mama Maina | Kenya | MinIT on battery

We did it! Three Tree labs in three countries (Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya) in three weeks.  In Kenya we went to visit Mama Maina and Mutunga’s farms near Thika, Kenya. In September 2017, we visited their farms and detected CMD viruses in both so we wanted to check the health of their plants with another rapid barcoding kit run. Our goal on this run was to decrease our time to results.  In Tanzania in Uganda it took us 4 hours from sample collection to results, this time we got the time down to 3 hours with great team work. Brenda Muga and Elijah Ateka were crucial in executing the Tree lab for Mama Maina and Mutunga. Interestingly, we found all the plants we tested were healthy- with no virus!  This is great news and will allow both farmers to sell their cassava sticks to others with no fear of spreading the virus.

We are now actively working on the crucial list of things we used to share with everyone and also analyzing all the results to present in a manuscript. Thank you to everyone who followed along- we are now ready to scale up our efforts.  We are always looking for partners who are willing to work for farmers. Thank you to Sam & Tom Industrys for shipping us a magnetic rack. Big shout out to the Nanopore team and Jo’s Zygem team who helped remotely.  Also a big thank you to Monica Kehoe and Anders Savill who helped from Australia.

MinIT on the battery:

Each Tree lab we started the run on the battery pack: found here.  To find it we searched “laptop power bank”.  The key for the power bank is to make sure it has not only USB inputs but also a power port and cable (see picture below with yellow circle around the cord you need). It ran on average 4.5 hours set on 16.5V.  Once the battery ran out we ran it from main power in a hotel room overnight if the hotel had no power (sometimes that was the case) we had a second power bank.  A better solution provided by Clive Brown at Nanopore is to have a input splitter so you don’t have to restart the device when the battery runs out.  The biggest challenge was trying to carry the battery, MinIT and the MinION in the car- typically we used a cardboard box-but not too small because once the MinION overheated because we put it in a cooler box.

MinIT and airport security- a few times the airport security people wanted to know what it was- we made sure to have a battery in the carry-on to power it up.  We explained it was used for diagnostics of sick plants AND had photos of us using it in the field so they could easily see the use.

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Uganda | MinIT | Sarah | Power

Uganda: Round 2 taking the tree lab to the farmer. This time we followed up with our farmer Naomi- turns out she has moved back to her village up north BUT her cassava fields were in good hands as her sister Olivia was looking after them and the harvest was massive.  One farmer at a time we will transform the food security space.

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Naomi’s cassava- 9 months later. IMPACT.

We arrived at the lab to find no power or internet – for the entire week- so it gave us the chance to test the infield diagnostic equipment with the Ugandan team!  All went well.  We set-up another tree lab to help farmer Sarah and her beautiful family including her daughter Sandra. They enjoyed watching the DNA extraction, library prep, sequencing followed by some quick bioinformatics.  Happy to report Jo’s DNA extraction machine coupled with the minION and the MinIT make the perfect mobile lab. On the spot diagnostics. Proud. Very proud.  We are now in Kenya and will do it all over again here. Pictures are worth a thousand words- see below for the magical moments in Uganda.