The RFC Lab is part of the Real Food Campaign (RFC). The Lab supports the mission of the RFC by surveying the quality of soil and food samples throughout North America and making a large, public, high quality and well referenced dataset.
This dataset serves not only to help inform the public and Real Food Campaign partners about the state of nutrition in our stores and farms, it also allows new technologies to be calibrated. Most handheld, low cost technologies to measure in-field soil and food quality require large amounts of high quality, comparable, but diverse data to correlate the device to real-world values of interest. A good example is using visible or near infra-red spectral data to predict antioxidants in food or soil carbon in soils. This process is called “chemometric modeling” and is often the most expensive part of making new devices. As existing technologies become cheaper and new technologies emerge, our lab seeks to serve as a long-term, high quality, public stream of this calibration data. This not only lowers the cost of development and spurs innovation but ensures that the calibration data remains a public resource. Access the public data can by found by year in the Our Work section as reports and raw data.
Many labs focus on expensive equipment and standard methods and those methods are important and necessary. However, we try to find the ‘sweet spot’ between quality, cost, reproducibility, correlation to handheld technologies, and utility to consumers and farmers. This produces a unique set of methods which you can read more about under Our Work –> Survey –> Test Methods linked above (for example, 2019).
Finally, we develop our methods via working groups of experts. This not only ensures we are using the best methods to accomplish our mission and the needs of the community, but build consensus and a network of researchers generating comparable data. This not only helps validate our methods through replication, but also speeds up the process of building chemometric models. You can contribute to our methods via the public forum where you can comment on and discuss every part of the RFC.