US – Food system innovator Apeel has unveiled a food imaging technology that allows stakeholders across all stages in the fresh produce supply chain to instantly and non-destructively determine the ripeness of avocados.
By coupling advanced imaging technology with machine learning, Apeel has increased visibility into internal quality and ripeness, now allowing producers and grocery retailers to make more informed sorting, shipping, and merchandising decisions.
RipeFinder, part of a range of new solutions launched by the food technology company to instantly and non-destructively determine the ripeness of avocados, has the potential to further mitigate food waste and help consumers enjoy consistently ripe and reliable avocados, Apeel noted.
The current method for testing uses a penetrometer – a device that puts a hole in the fruit with a needle to acquire the sample – which can be destructive to the fruit and create more waste while Apeel’s process uses a light beam and measures how much of the visible and near-infrared light spectrum is reflected, causing no harm or damage to the fruit.
Apeel states that one of the leading factors affecting consumers’ decisions on whether or not to purchase an avocado is the guesswork and frustration when attempting to calculate ripeness.
It believes the new technology that is 5 times faster than existing methods will increase the popularity of avocados by taking the guesswork out of the buying and selling process.
Currently, the technology is only available for avocados, but the company plans to produce models that could be used on other produce products such as mangos, mandarin oranges, and limes.
“Apeel started with a mission to prevent food waste across the supply chain with our plant-based protective coating,” said James Rogers, CEO.
“Our mission hasn’t changed, but we are evolving our offerings to further drive change in the food system. The expansion of our technology offerings will increase access to insights to create a smarter supply chain that maximizes the lifespan, quality, and sustainability of fresh fruits and vegetables.”
To illustrate the tech’s abilities and uses, the company will deploy an upgraded artificial intelligence data module for all its produce sorters and imaging hardware for use in distribution centers and packing houses.
The devices scan the savory fruit and then instantly categorize it based on ripeness, after which it can be distributed to the “optimal retailer” based on distance and remaining shelf life.
The technology, which could have a significant impact on food waste and in streamlining the distribution process, is currently being tested at an undisclosed, European-based commercial packing house.
Apeel’s evolving technology was first developed through the creation of Apeel’s plant-based coating and has deepened as their imaging technology has allowed for a powerful way to “peek behind the peel” and collect data on ripeness, freshness, nutritional density, and other attributes.
Meanwhile, analysts say the innovation may be used in conjunction with Apeel’s edible coatings to further reduce packaging waste.