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What’s Growing On: Scientists developing technology to read produce freshness signals

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 6:13 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -How many times have you thrown away produce that you either forgot about or ran out of time to eat? For most people, that number is countless.

Scientists with IFAS are using AI and x-ray technology to detect freshness signatures being emitted from your fruits and vegetables.

Eventually, their goal is to create an app or wearable device that can read how fresh produce is, and how long you have to use it.

“What we’re doing is collecting imaging data, specifically hyperspectral imaging data,” Alina Zare, a professor of computer engineering at the University of Florida said. “The goal is to try and understand if that imaging information matches the freshness signals that are being measured.”

Dr. Tie Liu came up with this idea. He said part of his inspiration was finding out just how much produce is wasted every year.

He said that consumers and farmers both play a big role in food waste.

Related Story: Farm Fact: Fruits and Veggies

“Locally, for instance, the consumer part, on a daily basis, manages when to cook those vegetables and fruit, and how fast you can consume it,” Dr. Liu said. He said his overall goal is to educate others on food waste and to come up with feasible solutions for consumers.

The experiment is still in the early stages and will continue to be studied over the coming years. In the meantime, there are many ways to cut down on food waste in your home.

Here are some ideas from the Environmental Protection Agency:

  • Find out how to properly store fruits and vegetables. Remember, some produce rots faster during refrigeration.
  • Consider freezing surplus fruits & vegetables.
  • Wait to wash berries until you expect to eat them to prevent mold growth.
  • Separate produce from bananas, apples, and tomatoes. These fruits give off a natural gas that can cause other produce to rot prematurely.
  • Start a compost for wasted produce.

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