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What is quality control in fruits?

Are you one of those who look at the physique or do you fall in love with the interior?

You may have a clear answer if we are talking about people. But what happens when we talk about fruit or vegetables? Do you think the same way?

69% of consumers prioritize quality as the reason that most influences their purchase decision, compared to 24% who buy fruit and vegetables motivated by the appearance or presentation of the product. (Source: YouGov for Alimarket Great Consumption)

 If you work in the fruit and vegetable sector, do not miss this post in which I analyze all the important points related to quality control in fruits and vegetables.

But what do we understand by quality in fruits and vegetables? At this point it is necessary to start with the definition of quality, don’t you think?

Definition of quality

The word «quality» comes from the Latin qualitas, which means quality or attribute of an object.

However, today a fairly accepted meaning would be «degree of excellence or superiority» (Kader, et al., 1985).

We say that a product is of higher quality when it surpasses another product in one or more attributes.

Quality is, therefore, a concept that has a clear subjective component.

Each consumer applies his own personal filter to determine the quality of the same food.

Furthermore, the concept of quality has been  changing over time. For example, what was once  considered a quality tomato, today might not be.

Let us briefly see what  the current concept is.

Calidad en frutas y hortalizas

Evolution of quality in fruits and vegetables.

 Today the total consumption of fruit and vegetables has increased compared to previous decades due to  different causes such as: concern about a healthier diet, lack of time to cook, increase in popularity  of veganism and other diets based on the consumption of vegetables in Western societies, etc.

On the other hand, and as we have seen, there is a growing demand for top quality fruit.

Years ago, growers, merchants and consumers decided upon their own quality standards without a unifying criteria.

However, nowadays and taking into account that the price of fruit is determined by its quality level, standards need to be established.

The higher the quality of the fruit, the higher the price and profit. Hence the interest of producers and merchants to search for excellence.

What the consumer values ​​is the appearance, taste and nutrients that fresh and seasonal fruits provide.

For their part, producers are continuously innovating with varieties of fruit and vegetables and which aspects, such as ripeness, taste and freshness are prioritized.

Finally, and how could it be otherwise, there is legislation that regulates the entire issue of quality within a territory, both at national, European and international level with numerous regulatory bodies.

The objective of this standardization is to establish a common point in international trade and to provide a criterion that allows determining the minimum quality to be met.

What parameters define the quality of fruits and vegetables and what parameters influence the quality of the fruits?

To set the standards of quality, the ripeness of the fruit is the most important factor. Exterior aspects and some technical factors must be considered as well. 

The main components of the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables are:

  1. The typical aspects of each variety of fruit
  2. The absence of defects 
    It is important to point out that defects do not affect the edibleness of a fruit.

    However, fruit with physical or morphological defects is rejected by the majority of consumers. These defects can occur during growth due to various causes such as climate, irrigation, fertilization, etc.
  3. Adequate development and ripeness
    Consumers likes fresh and edible fruit.

    Freshness is undrestood to be the shortest possible time elapsing between the time of harvest and the time of purchase.

    Ripeness is the exact time for harvesting when the fruit is firm, colorful, and flavourful.
    After all, who does not like to eat a good sweet orange with its characteristic aroma or a crunchy apple?
  1. Size
    Considering the size or caliber of the fruit, three different qualities are established: extra fruit, first quality fruit, second class fruit.
  2. Homogeneity
    Homogeneity is sought both in the caliber of the fruits and in the color they present and level of ripeness of each batch.
  3. Packaging / presentation
    Worrying physical defects can occur during the packaging process. Mishandling of the fruit can cause bruises in the fruit.

    Sprouting and rootings in bulbs and roots are two other problems that can occur in inadequate packaging.

How is the fruit evaluated in a quality control?

There are three types of evaluation.

The first is sensory evaluation.

Sensory evaluation

In sensory evaluation, in which five aspects are considered. They are color, size and weight, texture, taste.

  • Color is to be uniform in appearance, homogeneous and shiny 
  • Size and weight are to be similar among the fruits.
  • Texture means the fruit is firm and ripe.
  • Taste is the smell and flavor of the fruit

Technical evaluation

Ph, humidity, and firmness are the three components also valued in analyzing fruit.

Microbiological and chemical tests

Microbiological and chemical tests are carried out to discover the presence of any microorganisims in the fruit. 

The objective of these tests is to determine what chemicals the plant has been treated with during the growth and ripening process.

Software de calibrado de frutas

Fruit and vegetable quality control and its phases

At the time of harvest, if the collection is done by hand, a first “filtering” of the fruit is carried out by discarding the pieces of fruit that do not meet the standards mentioned previously.

Once the fruit has been transferred to the sorting place, four steps take place.

  1. Positioning
    This involves placing the frui ton the production lines for calibration and classification.
  2. Classification and identification
    The pieces of fruit are classified and separated by category according to the size, weight, and size of diameter.

    Any small stones and pieces of dirt are removed at this stage.
  1. Defects
    Defects are detected to eliminate the fruits that cannot be taken to the sales shelf.
  2. Final check and packaging
    In this phase, the fruit is protected so that it can withstand transport. It will be boxed and put on pallets.

How to carry out the quality process in fruits in an automated way

The horticultural industrial sector is focused on finding solutions that will improve each of the above mentioned phases of quality control. 

In the market, there are many machines and robotic elements that optimize these different stages. These are:

  • Faster calibrators.
  • Specialized software in the dectection of parameters such as color, size, weight.
  • Applied artificial intelligence systems capable of detecting exterior and interior defects in the fruit.
  • Versitile and compact palletizers.

The  above examples show the advances in this field and how rapidly they are changing the industry, which is now  termed  Industry 4.0.  Industry 4.0 is simply a new way of organizing production based on new technologies.

The fruit and vegetable sector has opted to mechanize all the processes that take place in the warehouse to the upmost. By doing so, the interconnected warehouses allows data to flow in real time so quick and accurate decisions can be made.

What does Invigision propose for you?

We have developed a low cost electronic calibration system suitable for any new or old calibrator.

The software is capable of detecting weight, siz, color, density, shape, and exterior fruit defects among other variable.

Other important characteristics of our system are:

  • Component reduction.
  • A single program adapts to any type of calibration for almost every kind of fruit such as cherries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, avocados, mangoes, melons, watermelons, and even some types of pumpkins.
  • Excellent value for money.
  • High performance in weight, size, color, shape, and defects evaluations.  Up to 30 units of fruit/second.

If you are looking to save time and increase the effectiveness and efficiency of  your product lines, take a look at our full sizing software programs.

Sources: Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, tecnologiahorticola.com, mundoagro.cl, deccoiberica.es, Alimarket, ecoportal.net.