Using low-cost digital technologies to meet the challenge of reducing food waste was the theme adopted by Dr Gavin Lishman, Managing Director of Martin Lishman Ltd, in his presentation at the recent Game Changing Technologies for Agriculture conference organised by the Department of International Trade in London.
“The fact that 1.3bn tons of food are wasted globally each year, with almost 60% of crops spoilt, damaged or wasted during post-harvest operations, presents a huge challenge to the food production industry”, said Dr Lishman. “But digital Agri-Tech solutions, leading to more efficient post-harvest methods, do not need to cost the earth and can reduce losses to as low as 1-2%.”
As part of their response to the food waste challenge, Martin Lishman Ltd has developed ImpacTrack – a new, low-cost data logger with a family of synthetic food shapes that replicate the movement characteristics of fruit and vegetables prone to damage and bruising during handling and transport. ImpacTrack joins the long-established TuberLog electronic potato, also produced by Martin Lishman, that has helped reduce financial losses in the economically important potato industry over many years. As a finalist in the Best Retail Concept category, the potential of ImpacTrack was recognised in October’s UK Fruit and Vegetable Congress and Awards.
The ImpacTrack will be on display at the LAMMA trade show in the UK this week where its functionality will be explained to visitors at the show.
ImpacTrack is a small data logger cube that can be installed within the packaging of any fresh produce to monitor temperature and impact shock during transit over any distance by road, rail, sea or air. The data gathered can be downloaded at the end of the journey via Bluetooth to any smart phone or tablet using the ML Sensing App. The logger can also be encased in a 3D printed shape that mimics the size, shape and density of the fruit or vegetable being processed, which allows real-time monitoring or recording of damage during handling by machines or humans at any stage from the field to the shop floor.
The ImpacTrack dummy shape reproduces the movement characteristics of the original and therefore gets as close as possible to a realistic representation of impact ‘black spots’ in handling machinery. If handling is in water, as with apples, the dummy is also able to float with the real fruit. Shapes already created are Gala apple, sweetcorn, Haas avocado, carrot, parsnip and egg. Other shapes such as strawberry, mango, banana and peach are equally possible.
ImpacTrack is a vital quality control tool for the reduction of damage and bruising whilst fruit or vegetables are in transit or in the picking or packing process. The ability to monitor impacts during these processes will result in fewer discarded items, leading to less waste and higher production yields.
“ImpacTrack is an example of a game-changing technology that can be used worldwide and adapted to suit all types and sizes of production and handling facility,” said Dr Lishman, “It will make a significant contribution to the challenge of reducing waste losses and increasing food production.”