(SWITZERLAND)

Fruit-shaped devices with inbuilt sensors are collecting vital data on foods travelling long distances.

Scientists at the Empa Materials Science and Technology Institute in Switzerland have developed sensors for checking the temperature of fruits being transported in containers. Until now it has only been the container itself that could be monitored in this way.

With large quantities of fruit lost – including entire cargoes at times – during the long journey from producer to a supermarket shelf, this technology could reduce wastage and increase profits for companies along the supply chain.

The artificial fruit, which sits alongside the real thing during transit, collects information which can be analysed if the produce isn’t fit for purpose by the time it arrives at its destination. The sensors can pinpoint where on the journey the problem occurred allowing for appropriate changes to be made with future deliveries.

It is not a case of one sensor fits all, though. The Empa team say different fruits need different sensors. “We are developing separate sensors for each type of fruit, and even for different varieties,” said project leader, Thijs Defraeye.

While the system is not wireless, work is underway to find the most cost-effetive way of bringing it online. By allowing for real-time analysis, it could be possible for action to be taken when issues occur, which might prevent the produce from being lost.

The Swiss team is continuing its trials and is currently looking for industrial partners to collaborate with.