Sensor monitors fruit cargo

March 24, 2017

Fruits can quickly perish on their journey from the farm to the store, and current methods for measuring the temperature inside cargo containers are not always sufficiently reliable. A new artificial fruit sensor developed by Empa aims to help solve this problem. The sensor looks like a piece of fruit and acts like one – but it is actually a spy.

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“(The sensor) is the same shape and size as the relevant fruit and also simulates its composition, and can be packed in with the real fruit and travel with it. On arrival at the destination, the data from the sensor can be analysed relatively quickly and easily. From this, the researchers hope to gain information about the temperature during transportation.

“The sensor can be used to establish the point in the storage and transport chain at which something went wrong.

“There are currently separate sensors for the Braeburn and Jonagold apple varieties, the Kent mango, oranges and the classic Cavendish banana. In order to simulate the characteristics of the individual types of fruit, the fruit is X-rayed and a computer algorithm creates the average shape and texture of the fruit.

“The researchers then determine the exact composition of the fruit’s flesh (usually a combination of water, air and sugar) and simulate this in exactly the same ratio in the laboratory, although not with the original ingredients, instead using a mixture of water, carbohydrates and polystyrene.

“This mixture is used to fill the fruit-shaped sensor mould. The mould is produced on a 3-D printer. The researchers place the actual sensor inside the artificial fruit, where it records the data, including the core temperature of the fruit.”

Field tests are currently under way at Agroscope in W├Ądenswil (Switzerland). Click here to read more from

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