Technology to assess internal quality makes sense only if the market appreciates it
“Demand for ways to assess the internal quality of fruit and vegetables has boomed over the past few years, although the technology is mostly applied to onions and apples. This is probably because, for these two products, internal quality really enables a distinction between first and second-choice produce. Damaged parts would in fact compromise consumption. In addition, there is no way to carry out manual sorting for these kinds of defects, as they are practically unrecognisable from outside.”
This was reported by Alessandro Amadei, Electronic area specialist for Elisam, an Italian company that, together with Dutch company Ellips, has developed a device that uses the best technology available to analyse the light refracted through the fruit. A light spot irradiates each product and internal properties can be determined by analysing its refraction. This revolutionary system enables the drastic reduction of defects and sorting problems. Parameters measured include rot, Brix levels, dry matter, acidity and ripening.”
According to Amadei, there are no non-detectable characteristics when it comes to the intrinsic quality of the products: various tools and techniques can retrieve all kinds of information. The real elements that must be considered to assess whether internal quality is useful for a certain purpose are measuring accuracy and system cost.
“Everybody is interested in knowing about the various internal characteristics of all kinds of fruit and vegetables, which include sugar level, acidity, dry matter and water quantity. The real problem is that this technology is still expensive and few are prepared to spend the money. I don’t believe there are problems that cannot be solved, it’s just a question of investments to be made to refine a certain technology or adapt it and apply it to a different field.”
Is the market ready for this type of sorting system?
“Some segments are, like apples, onions and dates. This means the market is ready where the internal quality element truly makes a difference on sales price and final quality. Internal quality analysis only makes sense when the market appreciates and rewards the work.”
What are the main supermarket demands?
“It’s easy: low prices and excellent quality. This is the reason why many warehouses are looking for new technologies to improve quality while reducing costs. And this is precisely what we are offering our clients. It’s not an expense but rather an investment to improve profits by supplying a high-quality finished product. In some cases, the investment repaid itself in less than a year, which I think is exceptional.”
This technology enables the discarding of unsuitable produce with an accuracy of over 95%. Manual sorting has an accuracy level of 60-65%. I believe this is proof of what we have achieved.”
“We use first-quality material and components to guarantee maximum reliability. We pay the utmost attention to detail and client needs and also provide high-quality after-sales service. In addition, we always focus on improving and developing new technology to always provide the best systems possible.”
“We have never looked to wage war on prices, we always try to supply the best technology to our clients. Of course this means costs can be higher. I’m actually only talking about the initial investment, as the quality of our systems quickly repays itself in terms of reliability, no additional costs and result quality.”
As regards the various global markets, Amadei reports that the American one always involves huge volumes, thousands and thousands of tons. This means investments are made more easily, as saving money can have repercussions worth millions of dollars down the line. Another element is the fact that US clients are not too bothered about the price, but they expect the system to meet their expectations, they are not shy about sending things back.”