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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: Technologies for Quality Measurement and Grading of Fruits and Vegetables

Location: Sugarbeet and Bean Research

Project Number: 3635-43640-001-00
Project Type: Appropriated

Start Date: Jul 07, 2010
End Date: Jul 06, 2015

Objective:
This research will develop practical sensors and technologies for quality measurement and grading of fruits and vegetables before, at and after harvest. It also aims to generate new knowledge and understanding of the optical and mechanical properties of fruits and vegetables and their relationship with the physiological factors and quality attributes. A systems approach of integrating sensors development, properties characterization, and models/algorithms development will be applied to attain the following specific objectives: Objective 1: Develop cost effective sensors and sensing systems to measure and monitor the quality/maturity of individual apples in the orchard. Objective 2: Develop commercially viable technology to presort and grade apples in the orchard so as to decrease postharvest handling and storage costs for fruit growers. Objective 3: Develop technology to accurately and rapidly assess, sort, and grade harvested tree fruits and vegetables for multiple internal quality attributes (firmness, flavor, ripeness) and defects.

Approach:
First, latest miniature near-infrared (NIR) technology will be used in the development of a portable fruit maturity sensor. Fruit maturity measurement will be achieved through integration of NIR technology with the nondestructive firmness measurement method recently developed in our lab. Algorithms will be developed and integrated into the sensor for real-time measurement of fruit firmness, soluble solids content and other maturity parameters. Laboratory and field tests will be performed to assess the sensor’s performance and portability. Second, commercially viable infield mobile sorting technology will be developed for sorting and grading harvested apples into two or three quality grades (fresh market, processing, and cull). A cost effective machine vision system and a fruit bin filler will be designed and built; they will then be integrated into existing infield apple handling systems for effective segregation of unmarketable or defective fruit from fresh market grade fruit. Laboratory and infield tests will be performed to evaluate the mobile infield sorting prototype for performance and bruising to apples. We will collaborate with a horticultural equipment manufacturer and university extension specialists, so that the developed technology can be quickly adopted by growers to achieve production cost savings. Third, research will be conducted on the development of a hyperspectral imaging-based spatially-resolved method for measuring the optical absorption and scattering properties of horticultural and food products. An optical property measuring prototype will be built and tested for automatic measurement of the optical properties of fruits and other food and agricultural products. Optimization of the hardware (light source, source-detector distance, etc.) and algorithms will be performed through Monte Carlo simulation and experiment to improve measurement accuracy and repeatability. Experiments and mathematical or statistical analyses will be performed to relate the optical properties to the structural/mechanical properties of apples and to the quality attributes of apples, peaches and tomatoes. Moreover, research will be conducted to improve spectral scattering technology for sorting and grading apples for firmness and soluble solids content. Improved hardware designs and new spectral scattering analysis methods integrating both spectral and image features will be considered and incorporated into the laboratory spectral scattering prototype for classification of apples into different quality grades based on firmness/soluble solids content. Finally, an online hyperspectral imaging system, which integrates reflectance in the visible spectral region and transmittance in the short-wave near-infrared region, will be developed for online sorting and grading of pickling cucumbers and/or pickled products for external and internal quality (or defect). Different lighting designs and spectral imaging acquisition modalities will be considered and evaluated. Image processing and analysis algorithms will be developed for rapid detection and segregation of defective pickling cucumbers/pickles.

Last Modified: 9/1/2014
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