Feature: Mobile app helps Israeli farmers choose best time to harvest fruits

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-15 17:32:52|Editor: Lu Hui
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By Keren Setton

JERUSALEM, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- Avi Schwartzer was looking at the mango tree in his garden in the Israeli village of Irus, contemplating when would be the right time to pick the fruit.

He went online and did not find a satisfying answer. But he did discover that in today's highly technological world, there was no technology to solve that conundrum.

About 18 months later, 42-year-old Schwartzer, a software engineer, co-founded AclarTech with Ruby Boyarski, a start-up company aimed at changing the way the whole food supply chain works.

AclarTech created an app - AclaroMeter - based on a sensor with infrared rays that allows every player in the business to assess the ripeness of fruits and vegetables, using cameras most people have in their smart-phones.

"It works from field to fork," said Schwartzer. Although, he explained, they were currently targeting the wholesalers and retailers.

In the dusty and humid fields of the Israeli Agricultural Research Organization in the center of the country, Schwartzer used his technology to test grapes.

Thousands of grape vines are being cultivated at Volcani center, many of which are varieties that are not yet on the markets.

Schwartzer took out his small sensor, a pocket-size device, and focused it at the grapes.

He then snapped a photo of the fruit with his smart-phone.

Within seconds, his screen was filled with data on the condition of the fruit.

"It helps us read the internal attributes of fruit... like the sugar level, the dry weight and the firmness of the fruit. We are adding the camera in our smart-phone in order to read external attributes of the fruit... like size, color and stains, then we take all of the attributes and we analyze them," explained Schwartzer.

According to him, there is no similar technology available on the market. Currently, farmers waste time and money on expensive lab tests in order to determine ripeness. Either that, or they engage in a guessing game - speculating on whether to pick the fruits or not, just by looking at it or touching it.

Currently the app works only on tomatoes and grapes. The goal is to extend it to all varieties of fruits.

But the potential of the technology is not only to improve the taste on consumers' plates - it lies in the ability to reduce wastage.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food worth of hundreds of billions of dollars was wasted every year, especially in the developing world.

The AclaroMeter can pinpoint exactly the time produce should be picked, significantly reducing waste.

"We anticipate the technology will reduce the waste by a few percentages and every percentile is a huge benefit to our planet," said Schwartzer, adding that the technology encourages transparency.

"It creates a standard and by having a standard, all the parties in the chain can talk with one another on the same language," he says.

Climate change has also baffled those growing produce in the fields.

According to Avi Schwartzer, severe weather changes confuse farmers with the right time to harvest their crops.

"They are craving for technological assistance," he says.

Schwartzer's goal is to create "a system that works in an accurate way, everywhere, in every temperature, for every user."

The company is currently cooperating with Volcani Center and the Israeli Agricultural Ministry to deliver its promise.