AN Italian packaging company has developed a high-tech in-store ripeness checker for fruit.
Developed in collaboration with Radio6ense and the University of Turin, the systems involves avocados packaged in a plastic case.
Named Smart Ripe, it was developed by ILIP in collaboration with Radio6ense, a spin-off of the University of Rome Tor Vergata, and with the University of Turin's Department of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences.
The product was launched last month at the international horticulture trade show, Macfrut in Italy.
A shopper selects the fruit and places it onto a small cradle-like device which digitally checks if the product is ripe via a very sensitive and selective radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag.
The tag can detect certain dielectric variations in the fruit pulp associated with ripeness, such as turgidity, acidity and water and sugar content.
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This information is transmitted to a terminal that can be programmed to return the desired information: from a simple indication of whether or not the fruit is ripe to advice on how or when to use it.
In the case of avocados, the first product on which Smart Ripe was successfully tested, it is possible to obtain data regarding consumption times ("not yet ripe", "ready to eat", "creamy") or methods of use ("for cooking", "for salads", "for sauces").
Currently, the technology has been designed for "premium" fruit and vegetable products, such as tropical fruit (avocado, mango and papaya), however the company says the principle can be applied to different types of fruit or vegetable.
ILIP research and development manager, Luigi Garavaglia, said Smart Ripe is the first technology that can monitor - in real-time and in a non-invasive way - the freshness and ripeness of a fresh product.
"With this innovation, we are paving the way to numerous applications that will improve handling of fruit and vegetables at the point of sale and the consumer purchase experience," Mr Garavaglia said.
ILIP business development and marketing director, Roberto Zanichelli, said the system was an innovation the company was very proud of because it is a step towards packaging that not only offers protection and conservation, but also a value creation factor for the supply chain.
"At a time in which plastic packaging is also facing criticism, we are proposing a vision in which packaging sustainability also involves advanced features that create value and improve supply chain management," he said.