Shipping and food production companies stand to lose a lot of revenue if their produce they ship is not kept in the right conditions in transport. Governmental organisations can even order shiploads of produce to be destroyed if it is not clear that it has been handled and shipped correctly.
A new device from the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) seeks to bring extra clarity and oversight to the fruit shipping industry. They have a new sensor which can mimic the shape and size of real fruit and be put in with other fruit shipments to measure temperature and other conditions.
The sensors were made using polystyrene, water and carbohydrates to match the properties of fruits themselves. The team took x-ray readings of various types of fruit and then 3D printed the casings of the sensors to be very similar to the actual fruit. So instead of having an over-sensitive sensor like might exist n many trucks, the new sensor matches the heat sensitivity of regular fruit by its composition. This improvement was explained by one of the researchers, Cornelia Zogg:
“Mangos, bananas and oranges have usually travelled long distances by the time they reach our shops. However, not all the cargo makes it safely to its destination. Although fruit is inspected regularly, some of it is damaged or may even perish during the journey. This is because monitoring still has significant scope for improvement.”
The devices have been made to match the properties of oranges, apples, bananas and mangoes. It is hoped this will overcome the more challenging aspects of shipping fruit, as explained by the research leader, Thijs Defraeye:
“Cargo could be left outside during a layover, or you could have a power outage during transit, all of which affects quality. Exporters do have ways to measure freshness, but our sensor is more accurate because it simulates the characteristics of individual types of fruit. If something goes wrong, suppliers will be able to access the temperature data from the whole journey and work out what happened. We hope this will help them control their sanitary protocols and cut the cost and time of logistics.”
The sensors are in the trial stage, and Empa are looking for companies to conduct launches with.
More information can be found at: Empa.