The PEACHNIR Operational Group intends to apply NIR technology in the commercial grading of peaches to avoid grading errors. To do this, IRTA is developing the necessary algorithms so that the sorting machines can analyze and group peaches based on their degree of ripeness and their organoleptic quality. "The goal is to be able to apply an automatic and non-destructive technique to all peaches so that we can allocate the ripest fruits to rapid or local markets and the least ripe fruit to more distant markets," stated Luis Asin, the Head of IRTA's Fruit Farming Program.
Currently, the classification of fruits in the manufacturing lines is still mainly based on external appearance attributes, such as the absence of defects, the fruit's size, coloration, shape, or firmness, ignoring other maturation related intrinsic factors. As a result, some fruits might not be marketed in their optimum state of maturity. One of the reasons this can happen is because these measurements usually require destructive methods, so only a small sample -which is not always sufficiently representative- is analyzed. In peach, this lack of representativeness may be greater since the degree of maturity at harvest can be much more heterogeneous than in other fruits.
NIR technology allows automatically and non-destructively measuring attributes related to ripening and organoleptic quality in fruit and vegetable products. One of the advantages of this technology is that it can be implemented in the sorting machines in combination with other sensors they already have, which allows measuring all the fruits that enter the packaging line at a high speed.
During the first year, this operating group has worked on a sorting machine equipped with a prototype with NIR technology, analyzing different maturity and organoleptic parameters. Now, IRTA is developing the algorithms that will be implemented during this second year in the software that will classify the fruit according to its state of ripeness, so that the processing plants can create different categories depending on the marketing destinations.
The 'Automatic classification of peaches and nectarines according to their state of maturity using non-destructive NIR technology' PEACHNIR operating group was created in 2019 with the aim of obtaining a product of uniform quality that can be differentiated for different markets. The producing, marketing, scientific, and technological sectors participating in the execution of the project are the Fruits de Ponent d'Alcarràs (Lleida) Cooperative Group, the horticultural company Baró e Hijos SL de Albatàrrec (Lleida), IRTA, and the manufacturer of sorting machines Maf Roda Agrobotic.
For more information: www.irta.cat/es