Electronic avocado reveals areas of potential damage
In the pursuit of improved efficiency, reduced waste and the highest quality, Colombian based avocado producer, Agrícola Ocoa used an advanced electronic data logger to seek out sources of damage within their production chain and achieved a significant reduction in losses due to damage and bruising.
According to Netherlands-based Center for the Promotion of Imports,avocado consumption in Europe increased by 25% in 2018 alone, with import volumes exceeding 600 million tonnes. The growing popularity of avocados has put stress on the whole supply chain, emphasising the need for special care and attention to transportation and warehousing. As if this was not a big enough challenge, Matthew Woodcock, director at supply chain software development company LLamasoft, said in an article published by Food and Drink Technology that “consumers are very particular about the avocados they decide to purchase, they can’t be too hard or too soft, they must be just right!”
For Assistant Director of Agrícola Ocoa, David Restrepo, the quest to improve the post-harvest process is a significant factor in his company’s response to the demands of the industry.They want to ensure that their avocados reach customers in the best condition possible, and with minimal waste. Avocados are locally produced at their large scale production facilities, Urrao and Valle del Cauca Farms,and exported worldwide.
“We wanted to find where we are putting stress on the fruits so we can make improvements to our logistics chain” explains David Restrepo. “We needed data to highlight areas of potential damage and the ImpacTrack was the solution.”
Manufactured by UK-based Martin Lishman Ltd, ImpacTrack is an award-winning shock-sensing data logger housed in synthetic carrier shells that mimic the shapes and densities of many varieties of real fruit and vegetables. Shock and temperature sensors inside the ‘Electronic Avocado’ track the movements of fruit through the different stages of production, highlighting areas that could cause potential damage through high impacts or sudden changes in temperature, and prompting immediate remedial action to equipment or processes.
“By mimicking the size and shape of the fruit ImpacTrack reacts to handling machinery in the same way as the real thing.”, explains Dr Gavin Lishman, Managing Director of Martin Lishman Ltd, “This key design feature is critical for accurate data monitoring of machinery.”
“ImpacTrack helps us to accurately measure the different avocado handling steps”, adds Mr Restrepo. “The impact sensors let us see exactly where the stress points are. The temperature values are also very useful as the avocados are sensitive to temperature changes.”
By linking to a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth, data can be viewed in real time to immediately show potential sources of damage in processing lines. Built-in memory also allows the logger to record both shocks and temperature changes independently, perfect for discreet logging of transport shipments. As the graphic from Agrícola Ocoa shows, impacts can be recorded throughout the entire production process. “The data gave us the opportunity to detect the hot spots in the logistics chain. Both parameters, g-force applied and temperature, are recorded. We were able to record the entire process, from harvest to packaging.”
David Restrepo and his team acquired three different ImpacTrack Avocado carrier shells to cater for their varieties. Results from their tests highlighted significant impacts which coincided with events along the processing chain such as harvesting, loading and unloading. Gavin Lishman adds, “We have seen very similar results from other firms here in the UK, revealing production areas that don’t look visibly damaging until tested with ImpacTrack.”
“Using the ImpacTrack has helped improve the quality of our avocados. We were able to clearly see the areas of production that needed attention and have made adjustments to help reduce impacts. This has helped us to reduce waste and, knowing that the fruits are being handled carefully, has given us a reassurance boost that the avocados are of the best quality,” Mr. Restrepo concluded.
Martin Lishman Ltd have worked closely with growers and producers worldwide to utilise their research and real-world testing to fine tune the design and range of more than 25 ImpacTrack shapes, which now includes clementine, pear, kiwi and garlic in addition to a range of apple shapes and sizes. Gavin Lishman added “It became clear that we cannot offer the customer a product such as ImpacTrack without first understanding their requirements. Growers and processors have specifications to meet and that’s why our brilliant in-house design team can reproduce almost any shape at the correct weight and density to ensure it’s as close to the real thing as possible”.
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