Sunday, June 26, 2022

A digital twin to citrus fruits: the embodiment against food waste

On the way from the place of production to the consumer’s plate, about a third of food worldwide is spoiled. One reason is unfavorable storage conditions along production and supply chains, including subsea storage at home. Researchers at Empa’s Biomimetic Membrane and Textile Laboratory in St. Gallen have been working for some time on digital solutions that could reduce this food waste. Now, together with researchers from the University of Bern and Stellenbosch University in South Africa, the team has developed digital twins of citrus fruits and published the results in the journal Science. nature food.

tray instead of dustbin

Food security and sustainable agriculture are among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also sees sustainable digital solutions and innovation as a means to achieve these goals. The team, led by Chandrima Srivastava and Thijs Defreye, is now relying on digital information for the virtual doppelgangers of citrus fruits, which they were able to determine by “upcycling”, that is, upgrading data that was rarely used. “Every container in the world is now equipped with one or more temperature sensors,” explains Empa’s Defrey. However, until now, the miscellaneous information hidden in these measurement data has not yet been exploited.

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By mathematically evaluating physical processes, the team was able to use the data set to track important properties of fruits over time, revealing and even predicting quality losses and marketing problems. Could. To do this, the researchers tracked the temperature evolution in 47 container loads of citrus fruits throughout the transport route and used computer simulations to determine the likelihood of similar damages, such as decay, moisture loss, Desirable changes such as cold damage, mold or mortality. of fruit fly larvae in digital twins.

The result was a wide range of transport conditions and loss of corresponding quality. “In our study, half of all shipments were outside optimal conditions for transportation,” says Defray. Consequences: decay, cold damage, spoiled goods. At the end of their 30-day journey, some of the remaining citrus fruits had a shelf life of only a few days.

optimum conditions

However, the solution to the problem isn’t just freezing the food. Rather, precise adjustment of transport conditions is necessary as a compromise. If, for example, lemons are too cold, pests such as fruit flies or other quality loss are kept away. On the other hand, the fruit is damaged by the cold, which may make it unmarketable.

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Using digital twins, the team is now able to determine the optimal conditions in which relevant risks such as fly infestation, visual impairment and cold damage are weighed against each other. Further development is still needed before the technology can be implemented, but the goal is clear: Alongside their production and supply chains, companies can actually integrate virtual fruits into their processes to optimize storage conditions and reduce food losses. Must be able to integrate.

fruit detective on the go

Researchers at Empa are also working on biophysical twins of fruits and vegetables to reduce food waste. Here, the properties of crops are fully simulated by the polymer model. In addition, the biophysical twins are equipped with sensors that measure the temperature and moisture content as they are present on the skin and in the flesh of the actual food. In this way, “spying” between products reports accurate data to optimize conditions during storage and transportation, in contrast to traditional measurement methods.

Recently, researchers have expanded the range of existing sensor fruits, apples and mangoes to include potatoes and avocados in various sizes, as well as improving materials and manufacturing processes.

Nation World News Desk
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