You squeeze. You poke. You visually inspect from every angle. We all have our methods for determining the ripeness of an avocado. But California-based food tech startup Apeel is about to unveil a device that purports to do the impossible: a scanner that can “peek behind the peel” and tell consumers just how ripe an avocado is.
The Apeel RipeFinder will debut this week and be available for demo at the International Fresh Produce Association’s Global Produce & Floral Show in Orlando. (Booth #1143 for all you expo attendees!) Announcing the device, Apeel writes that, once it’s ready for a larger launch, the RipeFinder “could allow grocery shoppers to know the exact ripeness window of produce like avocados before purchasing” simply by placing the item on top of the small scanner.
Adding to its simplicity, the RipeFinder is also built with a consumer-friendly interface, using language such as “Your avocado is ready for a salad” or “Your avocado will be ready in about 4 days” instead of more potentially confusing data.
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This tech is only the latest innovation from Apeel. The company originally launched with an edible coating that extends the shelf-life of fruits and vegetables. “Apeel started with a mission to prevent food waste across the supply chain with our plant-based protective coating,” said CEO James Rogers. “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 maximizes the lifespan, quality, and sustainability of fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Along those lines, beyond their consumer-facing scanner, Apeel is also introducing similar machines behind the scenes at other stages in the supply chain. For packing houses and distribution centers, Apeel has teamed up with MAF Industries to test a new AI model that they say will result in better sorting of avocados, allowing the produce to be routed to the best possible retailers based on their remaining shelf life.
And for distributors and retailers, Apeel has launched a “first-of-its-kind produce quality scanner” which they say is more than five times faster than existing methods for determining the ripeness of avocados and does not damage fruit like current methods. These commercial scanners are currently being tested at retail locations in North America and Europe.
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So how does it work? Apeel explains that their scanners penetrate the skin of an avocado with a bright beam of light, the reflection of which is then picked up by sensors which use AI to make their analysis. “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,” stated Lou Perez, Apeel’s co-founder and SVP of new product introduction. “This deep knowledge of produce behavior, 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.”
For now, Apeel says that, their edible coating which can be used on a variety of produce, the scanning technology is only available for avocados. But plans to expand its scope to things like limes, mangos, and mandarins are in the works.