Food wastage is a distressing reality, especially in today's world where feeding the burgeoning
human population is resulting in resource scarcities. The statistics are alarming. Much of our staple foodgrain yield is lost post harvest. In India, post-harvest losses amount to 12 to 16 million metric tons of food grains
each year. Starvation apart, the resulting monetary losses to farmers are in the excess of
Rs.50,000 crores (over $2B) annually. Improper storage is the main problem to be addressed,
contributing to more than 30% of the total post-harvest loss. With India's agri-warehousing
capacity lagging by more than a 100 million metric tons, our attention was drawn towards flaws
in traditional modes of storage.
Most traditional storage facilities are vulnerable to rodent pests, namely rats and mice. They eat large quantities of cereals, are vectors for disease causing microbes, and contaminate stored crops with their droppings, fur, and saliva. To make matters worse, they are also rapid breeders! Existing rodent pest control options are unfeasible on a large scale due to combinations of factors such as environmental contamination, costs, and ethical issues. If only there were enough natural predators to handle these vermin!
FearOmone - A cat pheromone based bio-synthetic deterrent to minimize post-harvest loses
caused by rat manifestation. Inspired by the effectiveness of the domestic cat in dispatching
murine pests, FearOmone seeks to exploit the innate fear of murines for the same. Our challenge is to prepare a device capable of diffusing the cat pheromone
and/or its precursors to areas surrounding grain storage facilities, thereby keeping murines
Our first aim is to transform our host system, S. cerevisiae, with synthetic gene circuits. This will result in a recombineered yeast pathway that mimics the cat nephron pathway for producing felinine. Next, we will conduct controlled experiments in the form of murine behavior assays to test the effectiveness of our synthetically derived felinine as a rat/mouse deterrent. Then, we will design user friendly and field-effective hardware to integrate with our yeast cells. Finally, we will run simulations on field data to understand murine behavior in realistic conditions and over a reasonable time-frame, with the intention of designing software for optimal dispersal of our hardware.
Who we are
We are a bunch of aspiring science major undergrads who have united for a cause - to win big in iGEM 2018! Pooling talent from across the disciplines of Biology, Physics, Chemistry, and Computation, we epitomize the philosophy of iGEM - the spirit of collaboration, and that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (pun intended). We are grateful to have the support of awesome PhD mentors, and a PI who is a pioneer in the field of Glutathione metabolism in yeast.
On a serious note, we hail from the state of Punjab in India, an agricultural powerhouse. Not every state in our country is as prosperous though. Thousands of Indian farmers commit suicide each year, largely due to crop failure. Based on employment, India is still an agrarian country. More than just students, we are conscientious citizens on a mission to alleviate the distress our farmers face, by applying the very science we learn here at IISER Mohali. On a larger scale, we wish to use the recognition we gain towards achieving yet another green revolution using synthetic biology.