The civil engineering department of the University of Pretoria is using “smart fruit” to significantly improve the transportation of fresh produce in South Africa and across the world. The project started after André Broekman, a PhD student, designed a similar sensor to measure how ballast moves under train tracks. He realised that there were other applications for this technology, including how fruit moves from a tree to the market.
Professor Wynand Steyn, head of the civil engineering department and chair of engineering at the university, said this is an excellent example of technologies developed during academic research leading to valuable real-world applications.
The smart fruit -SmAvo and Smato (smart-avo and smart-tomato)- are data logging devices that measure the movements of artificial fruit during the harvesting and transportation process. By measuring movements, they can detect where damage is done to fruit before they get to market.
Optimisation in the transportation of fresh produce improve the quality of products and reduce losses. This, in turn, reduces prices to consumers and improves profits to farmers. The artificial fruits use low-cost commercially available hardware, and the plans are made freely available to encourage farmers to use the technology.