Apeel Sciences imaging and data insights reduce food waste

Apeel is planning to introduce new solutions 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, so that producers and grocery retailers can make more informed sorting, shipping, and merchandising decisions, which has the potential to further mitigate food waste.

“Apeel started with a mission to prevent food waste across the supply chain with our plant-based protective coating,” said James Rogers, CEO of the food system innovation company. “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 maximises the lifespan, quality, and sustainability of fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Apeel said its technology has implications for the entire produce industry and is optimised to increase value for partners at different stages of the supply chain, as well as for consumers. The company announced several new efforts to deploy this groundbreaking technology, including:

  • Deploying an improved AI data model for imaging hardware in produce sorters at packing houses and distribution centres. Developed in collaboration with MAF Industries, these devices scan avocados and instantly group them into categories according to ripeness and dry matter. Once sorted, the fruit can be routed to the optimal retailer based on remaining shelf life to help prevent food waste. The new data model is global, enabling it to be implemented without time-consuming calibration. This inline sorting technology is being tested in a commercial packing house in Europe.
  • Launching a first-of-its-kind produce quality scanner for distributors and grocery retailers that can be used to evaluate ripeness and dry matter of individual avocados. These devices are more than 5 times faster than existing methods, do not damage fruit like current methods, and insights are automatically captured in a cloud database to inform receiving, stocking, and merchandising decisions. They are currently being tested at retail locations in North America and Europe.
  • Unveiling an avocado ripeness scanner for consumers that could allow grocery shoppers to know the exact ripeness window of produce like avocados before purchasing. The Apeel RipeFinder, which will be available for demo at the International Fresh Produce Association’s Global Produce & Floral Show in Orlando, also features a consumer-friendly user interface (ie, instead of displaying data, it reveals information such as “Your avocado is ready for a salad” or “Your avocado will be ready in about 4 days”).

The advanced imaging system, developed from technology acquired by Apeel, works by shining a bright beam of light into the avocado, where it will penetrate several millimetres below the skin. A sensor measures how much light is reflected in the visible and near infrared spectrum. Machine learning models are then tasked with converting this measured light spectrum into an accurate prediction of the avocado’s firmness and dry matter. The measurements can inform how long before the fruit is ready for consumption, eg, ready-to-eat now, in two days, or four days.

“All of our products are grounded in our view of nature as a database, and this data model is no different,” said Lou Perez, co-founder and SVP of new product introduction at Apeel. “The global avocado ripeness model was developed using machine learning by collecting data on tens of thousands of avocados throughout multiple seasons, blooms, and countries of origin. This deep knowledge of produce behaviour, as well as our integrated position in the supply chain, gives Apeel a unique advantage to create technologies that protect, detect, and direct quality produce and ultimately improve food supply chain decisions.”

“This technology and data model will really improve supply chain efficiency,” said Simon Hunt, COO of MAF Industries. “The data will determine whether a piece of fruit can be stored, whether it can be delivered through the supply chain at a slower pace, or whether it needs to be on shelves tomorrow. When we have this clear picture, we can send the fruit to a different location on the pipeline and treat that fruit differently.”

This advanced imaging technology is currently only available for avocados, but Apeel is working on models for other produce including limes, mangos, and mandarins.

Related content

Leave a reply

Food and Drink Technology