Today Apeel announced they would unveil new freshness detection technology for avocados this week at the Fresh Produce Association Global Produce & Floral Show.
The system, based on hyperspectral imaging technology, starts by shining a light that penetrates several millimeters below the skin. From there, it utilizes a sensor to measure how much light is reflected in the visible and near-infrared spectrum. Once scanned, the system’s AI predicts the avocado’s freshness and estimates shelf life by utilizing a “global avocado ripeness model” the company developed using machine learning based on “data on tens of thousands of avocados throughout multiple seasons, blooms, and countries of origin.”
The system, which is the evolution of the technology inherited by Apeel when it acquired Impact Vision last year, will be used in both a commercial implementation targeted at grocery retailers and distributors as well as in a scanner useable consumers to check freshness in the produce aisle.
The commercial-grade technology will feature a scanner and an “AI data model for imaging hardware in produce sorters” at packing houses and distribution centers. According to the announcement, the new scanner will detect freshness five times more quickly than traditional methods such as penetrometers (which poke holes in the produce to detect freshness). In addition, the new software will enable more accurate sorting, enabling distributors to target the proper retail channels based on the remaining shelf life.
While all that sounds great and represents a potentially significant advancement that could significantly reduce food waste, I can’t help but be a little more excited for the consumer retail scanner. If you’re like me, no fruit (yes, it’s a fruit) is more frustrating than the avocado; deliciously sublime when perfectly ripe, but hard as a rock if eaten too early and resembling the decaying flesh of a zombie if you’re just a couple of days too late. If this technology works, my days of throwing avocados into the compost bin may soon be coming to an end.
For Apeel, the new product line represents the first significant new product outside of the food tech unicorn’s flagship life-extension technology. According to the company, the technology will initially be limited to avocadoes, but they indicated they are working on extending it to other produce such as limes, mangos, and mandarins.