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Hideaki Tsutsui

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Hideaki Tsutsui
Developing Cost-Effective Biosensors for Crops
In his lab, Hideaki Tsutsui develops tools and technology to fabricate biosensors on plant leaves. The idea is make an easy-to-read sensor on leaves of food crops such as corn, rice and cassava so that farmers can quickly identify when their crops are in danger. Such a low-cost, easy-to-use technology is especially important for smallholder farmers in the developing world such as sub-Saharan Africa, where resources do not exist to buy costly fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides to protect their source of food and income.

Areas of Expertise

Select Honors and Distinctions

  • Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations Grant
  • Regents' Faculty Fellowship
  • Invitee, Agricultural Research Connections Workshop, Nairobi, Kenya


Q: How does the sensor work?
The sensor works similarly to the way a pregnancy test does; the injected antibodies capture pathogen biomarkers flowing through the leaf capillary and causes a change of color on a small section of the leaf in the event of positive detection.

Q: How has your research been funded or supported?
This research project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE), the foundation’s funding mechanism to support bold research ideas that have a potential to provide innovative solutions for global health problems related to disease, agriculture, and nutrition in the developing world.

Q: How do you envision your work’s potential in improving the sustainability of food supply?
I envision that upon successful development of the technology, our leaf sensor can provide smallholder farmers with low-cost means to monitor threats of plant pathogen infection in the field. Ability to quickly identify and segregate infected plants will minimize loss of harvest and improve food security of the smallholder farmers.

Q: What is the greatest impact that your research can have in everyday life?
I certainly hope that our research will lead to improvement of food supply in both the developing world and developed world in the future. Our concept of a leaf sensor is applicable to monitoring of plant disease, health, and nutrition contents, and providing new ways to study a variety of food crop-related problems.

Q: What is next for your research?
We have been developing our sensor technology using a model plant and a mock biomarker in the laboratory. The next step is to test our technology using a food crop and a plant pathogen in collaboration with plant pathologists.

Q: Why is UC Riverside a great place to do research?
UCR is a great place to do my research because I can work with talented and motivated students, staff, and faculty members from many different disciplines. We have very strong academic and research programs in engineering, plant biology, plant pathogens and many others, allowing us to conduct cutting-edge multidisciplinary research.

Q: What does Living the Promise mean to you?
To me, Living the Promise means to be able to work on what I believe is important.

Hideaki Tsutsui “Our concept of a leaf sensor is applicable to monitoring of plant disease, health, and nutrition contents, and providing new ways to study a variety of food crop-related problems.”

—Hideaki Tsutsui
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