colony picking robots
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Published On: October 24th, 2023Categories: Articles, Automation, Colony Picking

Colony picking is the most important aspect of identifying microorganisms for many applications. Used mainly to identify different bacteria, colonies are isolated for future analysis and duplication. The technology behind and colony picking itself is the cornerstone of any microbiology laboratory. Before automated colony picking robots, it was a tedious task performed by hand, which not only used valuable labor but offered more opportunities for inaccuracy. A single technician can operate an automated colony picker, and the improved accuracy is one of the key benefits of using the modern technology behind colony picking robots. Read on to learn more about trends and more about the technology that revolutionized colony picking.

Technology Behind Colony Picking: What Are the Principles?

The basic protocol includes:

  • Culturing microorganisms in an agar plate
  • Identifying the right colonies by imaging and analysis
  • Picking the selected colonies
  • Inoculating the picked colony in a separate agar plate
  • Letting the inoculated agar plate(s) incubate overnight

As previously mentioned, picking the selected colonies was previously performed by hand, but modern technology behind colony picking has driven automation and robots to do the job.

It is the software that drives an automated colony picker. Instead of manually selecting colonies with hand tools, the robotic arm picks the colony and uses software recognition. The robotic arms perform all the processes of a human hand (such as transferring the selected colony onto solid media plates).

Technology Behind Colony Picking: Trends

Automated colony pickers have been around for some time, however, current trends in colony picking include machines for high-throughput laboratories and artificial intelligence in robots. Some technology behind colony picking involves the introduction of a multi-pin synchronous manipulator, which can pick, inoculate, clean, and heat. This can provide a high throughput of 2,400 colonies per hour.

The software driving modern colony pickers has image recognition features. Colony pickers for high-throughput labs include features such as

  • Picking from SBS-compatible omni-trays
  • Segmented colony plates
  • Having 24-well, 96-well, and 384-well plates and Petri dishes
  • Ability to inoculate SBS-compatible omni-trays and 24-well, 96-well, and 384-well deep well and standard height plates.

Often, this software can be linked with artificial intelligence or machine learning algorithms that can interrogate huge data sets to identify unique microorganisms that can then be automatically selected and re-grown for further research. See the Columbia University article here, for such an example.

Technology Behind Colony Picking: What Are the Benefits of High-Throughput Screening?

High-throughput screening has many useful applications. Colony picking can be used in drug discovery, synthetic biology (syn-bio), picking for yeast; fungi; bacterial colony picking, and protein expression and purification. Automated colony pickers with robust software can process up to 2,500 colonies per hour, which is an incredible speed.

A functional high-throughput colony picker, such as the RapidPick™, has features like

  • One image for procession as compared to other machines that use multiple images for reconstruction
  • Approximately 90 percent selection efficiency
  • Calibration for each tip that takes less than five minutes 
  • Compatible with automated incubators 
  • Software that can be linked with AI and Machine Learning algorithms

The RapidPick™ can be further integrated using Hudson’s SoftLinx™ software, which is also open to integration with LIMs, AI and Machine Learning. The cost-effectiveness of reducing labor and improving accuracy to the degree warranted by your lab’s needs is unparalleled.

To learn more about the technology behind colony pickers designed by Hudson Robotics, contact us today with your laboratory needs to request a quote.