The impact of COVID-19 is being felt throughout the supply chain of fresh produce. Each link in the value chain is adjusting and preparing for a potentially ‘new normal’. At the grower-packer level, quality assurance labs are feeling the impact, too. Many fruit grower-shippers have on-site labs where the quality of the fruit is being tested prior to and during harvest. People from the field bring the fruit into the lab and lab experts cut the fruit up, weigh it, and test several different quality aspects.
Many people are involved in testing the fruit and often, they share a relatively small workspace. “For the past six weeks, labs have been facing the problem of not being able to run tests as efficiently because there can’t be as many people in the same workspace anymore,” says Leonard Felix, owner of Felix Instruments. “It is taking longer to perform tests and the additional hours of testing have resulted in longer wait times for growers and packers.”
Test results in seconds
“We offer a fruit assessment technology that helps relieve some of the congestion in labs,” said Felix. Instead of testing in a lab, the company has a solution to test the quality of fruit in the field. “For any commodity that needs some type of lab testing, our tools are a great fit,” he said. Felix is referring to Near Infrared (NIR) Quality Meters for avocado, mango and kiwi that were developed in recent years. In addition to the commodity specific meters, the company has a Produce Quality Meter that is useful for a wide range of fruits and vegetables. In a short amount of time, the meters measure dry matter, Brix, and titratable acidity, in addition to external and internal color of the fruit. Taking avocados as an example, dry matter is key for this commodity. “Depending on the testing technique, it can take up to 48 hours to have an accurate dry matter reading. With our avocado meter, that time is being reduced to 11 seconds,” shared Felix.
Kiwi, avocado and mango fruit meters from Felix Instruments.
The meters are portable, which means they can be used in multiple fields. The devices work in variable weather conditions and allow growers and packers to non-destructively measure the quality of their fruit. “It is not our goal to compete with labs, but our technology is able to help relieve some of the congestion in labs and speed up the testing process,” he said. “It’s a complementary tool.”
Recently, Felix Instruments has been receiving a lot of requests for their quality meters, from growers and shippers all over the world. “People are clearly looking for solutions.” To answer some of the most frequently asked questions, the company held a webinar this past Thursday. “So many measurements can be taken with the quality meters and the assessments are far more accurate than traditional results. It’s all being discussed in the webinar.” Click below to see the recording.