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Image of a bacteria and lab robot for an article about colony picking tools.
Published On: January 26th, 2021

In various biological fields, colony picking is a necessary process that acts as a core step in producing biological matter extracted from bacteria or fungi or for identifying new types of beneficial or harmful organisms.

Bacterial, yeast, and fungal colony picking can be done manually using human resources, but this is time-consuming and inefficient. This is where colony picking tools come into play; these tools can massively increase output and productivity.

Colony Picking Protocol: The Manual Way

When done the manual or “traditional” way, colony picking involves choosing, picking, and inoculating bacterial or fungal colonies.

  1. A petri dish with colonies on it is closely inspected
  2. A suitably segregated and pure colony grown from a single cell is chosen.
  3. With an inoculation loop or pipette tip, the colony is collected and placed into a liquid or solid medium to allow further replication and growth of that pure colony.
  4. The resulting cultures are either diluted and replicated until the targeted purity is achieved or moved to the next stage of the workflow.

When done manually, colony picking output is difficult to scale up and affects the lab’s productivity levels. Colony picking tools automate and assist the identification of single, unique colonies and the colony picking process.

Types Of Colony Picking Tools

Colony picking robots are a system that efficiently handles a lab’s colony picking protocol. Petri dishes, or single-well microplates, can be stacked within the system and loaded onto a picking system via a robotic arm.

A camera attached to the colony picker will then capture a high-resolution image of the colonies. Image analysis software will automatically pick suitable colonies based on the operator’s criteria.

Picking can be done fully automatically, or the automatically selected colonies can be reviewd by Lab staff prior to picking, with manual selection and de-selection.

Once the system gets a go-ahead from the lab staff to proceed, it automatically picks the suitable colony using the pin tool and inoculates the culture medium. The pin is then washed and sterilized before the next round of picking, and the entire process repeats itself.

Using these colony tools increases output because the picker runs continuously, and many systems have multiple pins to extract multiple colonies at once. Each picking cycle is incredibly fast to allow several rounds of picking within a short time. Complete systems can pick more than 2,500 colonies an hour, which is not achievable by a single staff member.

Colony Picking: Complementary Systems

Many colony picking systems come with software that helps the system identify the right colonies and stores images of every petri dish photographed and keeps track of which microplates were used to inoculate colonies from those petri dishes.

On top of that, labs can combine colony picking tools with microplate handling systems and various laboratory work cells for top-notch efficiency in both upstream and downstream processes.

Using Automated Colony Picking Tools in a Laboratory

Speeding up a lab’s colony picking process starts with choosing the right type of colony picking system for the lab’s needs. For best results, identify the exact workflows that can be automated, confirm the amount of space available for these systems, and contact a reliable manufacturer to inquire about the best solutions.

Hudson Robotics provides a wide range of colony picking tools designed to help life science labs, big and small, automate this process effectively. Contact us to schedule a demo or to learn more.