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Roy talks about his work and goals with the F-750 Produce Quality Meter regarding his work in both pre-harvest and postharvest technology.
What project are you working on that requires the F-750 Produce Quality Meter?
We have a project funded by the German Ministry of Agriculture that is encouraging the use of big data in agriculture with the specific goals of better understanding of storage disorders such as internal browning in apples. Also, to learn how to move our fruit industry towards non-destructive technology for measuring fruit maturity and quality. We know that pre-harvest factors are important for the onset of these physiological storage disorders and we wanted to monitor preharvest conditions to better understand them .
When we were planning the project, we looked around for technology that would fit within the scope of the project and talked with other researchers. From this we decided to include the F-750 in our project budget because it was purpose built for tree fruit quality and commercially successfully in the mango industry in Australia. The reason we purchased the F-750 in lieu of some of the less expensive instruments on the market was access to the raw data and the full visible short wave NIR range.
How long have you been using the F-750 Produce Quality Meter?
We have a three year project that started in spring of 2016. We are just now beginning to put the F-750 to full capacity in the field.
What were some initial challenges you faced using the F-750?
We wanted to do two things. We wanted to get information about fruit ripening. There is information in the visible area such as the changes in chlorophyll that relate to fruit ripening and for example also changes in other pigments such as xanthophylls that can potentially tell us something about plant stress or the efficiency of photosynthesis. We also wanted to get information on the changes in brix and dry matter from the short wave NIR region of the spectra. After our first year we now understand what the device is capable of measuring (e.g. we cannot determine changes in acidity in apples) and are now up to speed with the literature, and have initial data on field maturity and storage relationships. We are able to use these data to meet our project goals and use in prediction models of the storage disorders and harvest date. It is a great beginning but we clearly need more data from a number of different growing seasons.
In the first year, we had to familiarize ourselves with the data, software, calibration and ground truthing the non-destructive measurements. We underestimated the amount of time and attention to detail to get the reference data accurately. I think we did an average job our first year and look forward to improving our models with data from future years.
We are now looking at a second season of the project. We have refined our use of the device on fruit and are also wanting to attempt to use the F-750 to measure leaves. This will allow us to follow the development of the foliage, to better understand the fruit to leaf relationships with the growth and development of fruit quality. We are taking repeated scans of the same fruit on the tree to look at growth and development and use the Felix to measure the changes on the tree. With a great deal of focus on the preharvest period we hope to better understand the postharvest behavior of the fruit in long term storage.
It is premature to claim we have success as it will take a number of seasons to complete our goals. But we definitely see and understand the potential here
How were those challenges overcome?
We found the F-750 very user friendly but were heavily reliant on support and guidance from the team at Felix to help us get the best out of the instrument.
What was your experience working with people from Felix Instruments?
I have to say that the relationship and support with Felix has been outstanding. It is a company that have clearly taken the predecessor device, the ’Nirvana’, and enhanced its capabilities to develop a robust and user friendly field ready instrument. For example, commercially available batteries, standard data storage, and WIFI support have all been tremendously useful as compared to other products on the market. There is obviously care and attention to detail in the data handling and software. Moreover, the team at Felix has actually incorporated some our feedback into future revisions of the software.
One important aspect is that the device is actually designed to integrate scan information to get an average measurement of a representative sample area of the fruit. This helps to reduce variability seen in other spectrometers that use optics which focus on a small point. The sampling design and size of the F-750 is appropriate for fruit.
How do you plan to use the F-750 Produce Quality Meter in the future? Any features you’re looking forward to?
Now we just have to deliver more field data and a reliable instrument like the F-750 will allow us to do this. As an applied research station, we are focused on finding workable solutions for grower and fruit industry problems. We are excited by the idea of Fruit Maps because it is a grower friendly tool kit and something where we can fuse different data together, this is exactly the kind of mechanism to convert data into useful purpose applied information.