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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a BioTag

A BioTag™ is an inactive yeast cell that contains a small, inert and unique sequence of DNA. These BioTag™ sequences are safely added to yeast solely for the purpose of traceability and identification, and do not modify, add or delete any existing genes in the yeast.

What is yeast? Where is it used?

Yeast are a group of single celled organisms found throughout the environment.  Saccharomyces cerevisiae, also known as brewer’s yeast or baker’s yeast, is a species of yeast that has been used for thousands of years to make bread, beer, and wine among other food products. As an ingredient, additive or processing aid, yeast is a commonly used food and feed input with a long history across many industries.

Why does Index use yeast?

Yeast production techniques are well understood and easily scalable, allowing for efficient and inexpensive production. With yeast already a commonly used product throughout the food system, Index’s BioTags are designed for seamless integration into production pipelines. Furthermore, in comparison to naked DNA barcode solutions, the structural features and inherent natural defences of the yeast cell serve as an amazing protective capsule for our identifiers. The result – a safe, easily scalable, reliable and uniquely traceable product.

How is a BioTag™ made?

BioTags are made through an inert bioengineering event, where a unique non-coding sequence of DNA is inserted into standard baker’s yeast. Each BioTag undergoes a quality control step to ensure there is no modification, addition or deletion of yeast genes through this process. BioTags™ are characteristically identical to baker’s yeast and inactivated prior to commercial use.

Our Technology Page has more details on how BioTags are made, applied and detected.

How can a BioTag be applied to a product?

BioTags can be added, mixed, sprayed or affixed to any product that can benefit from end-to-end supply chain biological traceability and identification. Unique BioTags can even be applied at multiple nodes along a supply chain or within subsections of a lot or component of a product. This flexibility of spatial and temporal granularity of where and when BioTags can be incorporated lets the BioTag tell the story of a product’s origin and journey from beginning to end.

Our Technology Page has more details on how BioTags are made, applied and detected.

Why use BioTags™ if packaging and products have physical labels like barcodes or RFIDs?

Traditional traceability technologies tend to rely on packaging and are incorporated into the non-biological components of a product, such as a label, sticker, printable surface or container. They have their place; however when the goal is to trace, differentiate or segregate food system products, these solutions miss the mark as they cannot be processed, consumed, and in many instances, are not biodegradable. Food system products require a natural and customizable traceability solution, which is why we’ve developed BioTags. These microscopic fingerprints are not visible to the naked eye and cannot be adulterated or removed from the product onto which it is applied.

How are BioTags™ detected?

BioTags are detectable in trace amounts, well below parts-per-million. Samples can be tested with handheld detection kits on-site, or sent to Index or a trusted third party lab for detection using common molecular techniques.

Our Technology Page has more details on how BioTags are made, applied and detected.

How is information related to a BioTag™ collected and does it compete with existing digital traceability systems?

Every BioTag includes a unique identifying sequence that is stored in Trailhead™, Index’s digital registry. Trailhead acts as the link between the physical BioTag and the digital supply chain, and can be securely integrated with existing traceability software through a simple API. Trailhead entries contain data related to its manufacturing, client and intended use, along with any additional information that may be relevant to the value chain.

What are some examples of ways that BioTags™ can be used to solve common and costly supply chain challenges?

Our Use Cases Page details how BioTags can be used in a variety of industries. An illustrative example is below:

Currently, to find a source of E. coli contamination in romaine lettuce, regulators and industry need to trace that lettuce back to its origins in a farmer’s field. The search is complicated by a number of factors: the packaging is often discarded; the supply chain participants’ best practices require only one step forward, one step back information; the chain of custody is almost always broken and subject to human error; and most supply chain participants still track using paper systems.

By BioTagging a head of romaine lettuce in field, regulators and industry can identify the exact field, grower, region, lot/row, and harvest date, within minutes. It doesn’t matter what packaging (if any) it ends up in or if it is in a bag of mixed greens with lettuce leaves from many different heads of lettuce, or where in the world it ends up. Starting the investigation at the product's origin and following its path forward through the supply chain saves time and money, and promotes a healthy supply chain.