See all Posts
Image of microbes and lab instruments for article on automated colony picking.
Published On: August 30th, 2022

Colony counting determines how many microbial colonies are growing on cell culture media, such as agar plates. Automated colony counters are a newer technology that uses digital images and machine learning algorithms to provide a high-throughput alternative to manual colony counting. Since colony counting has applications ranging from product testing to cancer research, automated colony counters offer many benefits to labs with increased colony counting needs.Increased accuracy, higher throughput, and regulatory compliance are three key benefits of automated colony counters. Read on to learn more about how this technology might be useful in your lab.

Manual Colony Counting Challenges

Manual colony counting involves visually distinguishing bacterial colonies based on their size and shape and adding to a mental or written count. Unfortunately, manual colony counting is subject to human error and research bias.

Further, if a microbiologist expects a specific experimental outcome, that bias may affect the count. Difficulty distinguishing between 2 colonies or mistakes in double-counting or missing colonies can lead to less accurate colony counts.

Lastly, manual colony counting is time-consuming, making it a poor choice for labs with high-throughput colony counting requirements.

Automated Colony Counters Increase Accuracy and Precision

One of the most common errors in manual colony counting is failing to distinguish between 2 colonies with overlapping edges. Digital imaging tools can detect minor color gradations that indicate edge overlap. Manual colony counters often look at one fraction of a plate, such as a quarter, and extrapolate that count to the entire plate by multiplying it.

Automated colony counters can count the colonies on the entire plate, which leads to more accurate counts. An added benefit is that automated colony counters can record additional data, like colony size and color, that a manual colony counter would be unable to measure objectively.

Increase Throughput

Automated colony counters count more quickly than manual counting. Additionally, automated colony counters don’t require a lab technician’s involvement during the process, so technicians are free to work on other processes.

For example, a technician might spend time loading an automated colony picker to select colonies from plates that have just been counted.

Automated Colony Counters Provide Audit Trails

Colony counting is frequently used in the food and beauty industries as part of the quality-control process. Automated colony counters can save a record of the original plate image and the colony-counting algorithm design and threshold settings.

The traceability of colony counting decisions made by automated colony counters is useful for audits that can find and eliminate sources of error. This digital audit trail helps with CFR 21 Part 11 compliance for pharmaceutical and medical device laboratories.

With the high regulatory burden faced by most life science industries, keeping an audit trail simplifies compliance.

If your workflow includes Colony Picking as well as counting, read on for more information.

Getting Started with Automated Colony Picking

An automated colony picker is a helpful piece of an efficient lab workflow. In microbiome research to synthetic biology applications, colony picking is increasingly important and an increasingly relevant part of modern life sciences labs.

However, technological advancements can be challenging to keep up with: if your lab would like help getting started with automated colony picking, contact Hudson Robotics for a free equipment consultation. With automated colony picking, lab technicians have more time to focus on what really matters.