A significant part of the fruit and vegetable production gets lost during the post-harvest process. Innovation stakeholders from the North-Western part of Europe are now joining forces to develop an affordable tool that could help farmers monitor the quality of their products in real-time. The new tool will contain a next-generation gas detector, which can measure eight different gasses released by the products. The QCAP project, Quality Control Agricultural Products, strives towards completing a prototype in 2019.
The detector will provide real-time information on gasses released during ripening (ethylene and CO2) , fermentation (ethanol, acetaldehyde, ethylacetate), damage (ethane) and rotting (methanol, acetone). Together, these gasses give very precise information about the state of the product.
A light is sent through an atmosphere sample. Depending on the gasses in the sample, it will absorb a specific colour of the light beam. By measuring the light output , the exact gas mixture willl be determined, up unitl one gas particle out of 10.000000 particles. The challenge in this project is to gain a "fingerprint" of different types of gasses.
The complex data from the detector will be transformed in one very simple signal, for example a green light if the quality of the product is still excellent, and otherwise an orange or red light. In this way, the farmer knows exactly when to sell the product or how to adjust the storage atmosphere. The monitoring system will be tested and optimised together with farmers and storage facilitators. Initially, the system will be applied to the storage of apples, pears, blueberries and the potatoes, which represent a large part of agro-food sector in North-West Europe. Nevertheless, it can be used for other fresh products. The return on investment is estimated at two to three years for an average storage room. The durability of the system is expected to be 10 years. Therefore , the product will have a significant economic value for the agro-food sector.
LOW-COST SENSOR PROTOTYPE
The project aims for a gas-sensor that is able to detect eight chemical compounds simultaneously. Therefore, a new laser is required., with a broad spectrum and a very high intensity. Moreover, the light pathway and the detection method will be optimised. The goal is to make a very selective, but also an affordable detector system.
SELECTION OPTIMAL STORAGE CONDITIONS
Which gases are produced by which products ? And how do they represent the product quality ? This is essential information to be able to convert the sensor data into userful information about the quality of the products. The project will map the gas release in potatoes, apples, blueberries, and pears during multiple degradation processes.
SYSTEM INTEGRATION AND VALIDATION
In the end, the sensor will be connected to a computer-controlled monitoring system, producing easy-to-use information about the fruit quality. The farmers will receive notifications describing the qualtiy as excellent, good or less good. On the basis of that information, they can decide whether they need to sell the product or adjust the storage atmosphere. The QCAP project will develop this complete monitoring system and will test it in real-life storage systems.
Our contribution to the project
Storex is the market-leader in CA-innovations, with inventions like ethanol-measurement for DCA-storage, VSA-technology for nitrogen gas production and double vessel CO2-scrubbers. To provide the best CA-technology , Storex always invested in research, development, and the implementation of these innovations. Therefore, we consider ourselves as a perfect match to evaluate and validate the applied technology in the QCAP-project. The laser technology to measure gas compositions and concentrations is already successfully applied in the medical sector and especially on laboratory level. The challenge for QCAP is to develop a system which provides us detailed information about the quality of fruits stored under specific conditions. This system should be easy to install in existing storage facilities, easy to maintain and to operate under harsh conditions and the user interface should provide the operatror clear and uncomplicated information about the status of the product.