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.

Develop methods / standards

Establish and improve low cost, high throughput methods to measure the quality of fresh food and the soils in which its grown.

Build public database

Establish an open access database of food and soil quality from samples collected in stores and on farms across the world.

Calibrate low-cost device

Using the sample throughput, calibrate low-cost devices for measuring food and soil health usable by consumers and farmers.

Support BFA members/partners

Provide low-cost testing for BFA members and partners and help answer their questions about the connections between food, soil and human health.

Katie McBryde

Lab Manager

Katie has helped create and build several labs, including soil testing labs with high throughput. She keeps the processes working and the sample train running on time!

Dan TerAvest

Farm Partners Lead

616 552 2923

Dan TerAvest has a PhD in soil science and over 5 years’ experience working with smallholder farmers in southern and eastern Africa. Prior to Our-Sci, he coordinated international research collaborations for the PhotosynQ project at Michigan State University

Greg Austic

Data Partners Lead

919 545 1083

Greg cut his teeth in the lab making biodiesel, first in drums then in tanks, in the mid 2000s. After that, he took a 5 year hiatus building software and hardware. Now he's combining both in the RFC Lab. Greg manages the RFC Lab, survey design, and implementation.

Anna Bahle

Outreach Coordinator

Anna is a recent University of Michigan graduate of Biology and Environmental Science. Her interest in nutrition stem from her passion for cooking, farming and cultivating a healthy planet. She connects with the local Ann Arbor growers and helps build relationships with potential research and farm partners.

Charles Ballard

Manufacturing Lead

Charles is a jack of all trades with a strong background in genetics + lab testing, small-scale startups, and construction. He manages the assembly, calibration, and delivery of the Bionutrient Meters, and is developing new content and new devices to expand functionality to BFA.

Srikar Kesamneni

Lab Intern

Srikar is a Food and Nutrition student at Michigan State University, interested in the intersection between nutrition and health.

Maddy Czerwinski

Lab Intern

Maddy is a Nutritional Science Major at MSU with a focus on public health.
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