By Andrew McQueen, Product Manager Inspection Systems
It’s been a very busy 18 months for our Inspection R&D team, announcing our next generation NIR platform Inspectra2, while also releasing four versions of Spectrim software and a big step forward for cherry grading with InVision Total View. Our controlled introduction of Inspectra2 for kiwifruit and apples in New Zealand has just finished, so I’d like to give an update on the very exciting results we’ve seen – Inspectra2 is definitely meeting our targets for leading performance and usability in production.
For those who aren’t familiar, allow us to introduce you to NIR technology: NIR is typically used to create premium products and minimize supply chain losses by measuring brix, dry matter and identifying internal defects.
For the rollout of Inspectra2 to apples, we partnered with T&G - New Zealand's largest apple exporter - who owns well-known Envy, Jazz and Pacific Rose varieties, as well as trading and growing other varieties like Honeycrisp, Pink Lady and Fuji; some of these varieties can be susceptible to a range of internal issues in particular regions or under certain environmental conditions.
Because T&G are in a unique position of controlling the sales and marketing of Envy, Jazz and Pacific Rose, they are focused on delivering their brand promise of consistent high-quality produce to consumers. Morgan Rogers, global head of innovation at T&G said, “if we are to hold our apples at the highest level of pricing, we need to ensure we’re delivering on the brand promise for the product every day of the week.
This is the challenge that has driven Compac’s development team to build Inspectra2 with a focus on only two things: consistent high performance and operational usability. Working closely with the T&G team on the ground, we’ve been able to validate both of these goals using Inspectra2 and are excited to say that the leaps in performance and usability have met our stretch targets.
At a brand level, Inspectra2 has enabled T&G to create benefits for both consumers and growers – a win/win situation for the difficult trade-off between both ends of the supply chain that every packhouse faces.
“The great thing about Inspectra2 is that with this technology it has enhances our ability to pack lines of fruit that we’ve had challenges with historically due to internal defects, this means that we’re not only better protecting the consumer from these types of defects, but also providing benefit to the growers (our stakeholders in the programme) as we are able to sell product that would have been otherwise unsaleable previously,” said Morgan.
Additionally, Inspectra2 has provided substantial operational value for T&G. Initially, we thought the greatest value would be the new modelling method for Inspectra2 meaning that their operators were no longer staying late or making models through the night. This was true, but the operations team at T&G thought the greatest operational value was that there were no more good days or bad days in the packhouse - every day was predictable.
Regardless of how good the incoming fruit is, the team doesn’t need to slow down the packhouse to manage any fluctuations in either internal or external quality. We were onsite earlier in the season when the team was unexpectedly presented with a line of very high incidence internal defect.
In the past, this fruit would have been wasted because technology wasn’t able to create clean enough packs for consumers. Instead of wasting the line of fruit, and also wasting time clearing out the line and finding a new batch, this whole line of fruit was successfully packed while the NIR team closely monitored the Inspectra2 performance.
It’s only early days for the Inspectra2 platform, but after a successful apple season, we’re seeing signs that our industry may finally have an NIR product that is both operationally smooth for packhouses, and also accurately tailored to the exact fruit.
The leader of the NIR program for T&G summarized this nicely saying, “Inspectra2 isn’t about the easy modelling, it’s about getting really consistent results over the season.”
With complete eating experience being so important for consumer retention, we’re excited to have a consistent internal inspection product for the apple industry. Similar gains are being seen with Inspectra2 for the citrus, kiwifruit and avocado industries.
Breakthrough production results for Inspectra2 during first season - Improved accuracy and simpler operation