A New Tool to Assess Ripeness of Fruits Developed

Chander Mohan
Chander Mohan

Overripe fruits become waste and create microbes and pathogens, which is not good for human health as well as for the society also.   To overcome the problem of over-ripeness of fruits, the agriculture scientists in Queensland have introduced a sensor-based technology. The researchers have developed a new tool to assess the ripeness of mango crops before the harvest, potentially boosting harvest timing & fruit quality. The non-invasive sensor team from CQUniversity revealed that it had created new sensor system technology using near-infrared spectroscopy to evaluate products in the orchard, without damaging the product. The technology allows growers to better plan their harvest, by employing the right number of pickers at the right time.

CQUniversity professor Kerry Walsh said some cases, farm performance improved by more than 40% by early and accurate assessment of fruit ripeness. She said the team’s focus was developing new sensor hardware and working with existing sensor hardware to assess agriculture commodities without damaging the product.

She said, “As a consumer, if you go into a retail store and you purchase fruit on the basis of what it looks like, take it home and you have an eating experience that’s bad”. Research says that you won't go back to get that fruit for 4-6 weeks, so it's not an instant decision but it’s certainly important to repeat purchase.

Professor Walsh informed that the team was originally prompted by farmers to estimate the quality of the fruit on the packing line non-invasively, but watching the growers prepare for harvest in the orchard led them to look at machine vision in the orchard.

The team is now investigating the use of machine vision to assess mango flowering & fruiting and robotic harvesting techniques to overcome labor shortages and occupational risks to workers.

“At first, we were prompted by growers to look at estimating the quality of fruit non-invasively, its internal quality being sugar content or dry matter content and that took us down the path of measuring in-line,” told Professor Walsh.  Now we were adding in another facility that is estimating the sugar content or dry matter content of that fruit.

She said, “We were in the fields doing the dry matter measurements & we could see the grower practice of trying to estimate fruit yields that is how much crop was on the tree, so that they could be organized in terms of labor requirements, packhouse requirements & that was all being done manually with a hand counter, so that lead us into a new line of work looking at machine vision in the field, so rather than just machine vision in the pack house, taking it into the field to estimate crop load across the field.

She added “The next step is to try and reach out to pick the fruit to automate the harvest.”

Groves Grown Tropical Fruit owner, Ian Groves said a big variation between varieties or just a lack of cues in some varieties meant he often had to look at the flesh color to determine if the mangoes were ripe.

“With one of the NIRS guns we are now able to walk through the orchard testing fruit, seeing if there’s sufficient to go through a spot pick or whether they’re all ready and train up our workers as to the visual cues as to what a mature mango looks like,” he said.

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