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Colombian avocado producer Agrícola Ocoa has successfully trialled an advanced electronic data logger to increase efficiency, reduce waste and improve product quality.

Developed by UK-based family firm Martin Lishman, ImpacTrack is an award-winning shock-sensing data logger housed in synthetic carrier shells that mimic the shape and density of avocados.

Shock and temperature sensors inside the ‘Electronic Avocado’ track the movements of fruit through the different stages of production, highlighting areas that could cause potential damage through high impacts or sudden changes in temperature, and prompting immediate remedial action to equipment or processes.

By seeking out sources of damage within their production chain it can achieve a significant reduction in losses due to damage and bruising.

“By mimicking the size and shape of the fruit, ImpacTrack reacts to handling machinery in the same way as the real thing,” said Dr Gavin Lishman, managing director of Martin Lishman. “This key design feature is critical for accurate data monitoring of machinery.”

David Restrepo, assistant director of Agrícola Ocoa, said the company wanted to ensure that its avocados reach customers in the best condition possible, and with minimal waste. The fruit is locally produced at the company’s farms in Urrao and Valle del Cauca and exported worldwide.

“We wanted to find where we are putting stress on the fruits so we can make improvements to our logistics chain” he explained. “We needed data to highlight areas of potential damage and the ImpacTrack was the solution.

“ImpacTrack helps us to accurately measure the different avocado handling steps. The impact sensors let us see exactly where the stress points are. The temperature values are also very useful as the avocados are sensitive to temperature changes.”

By linking to a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth, data can be viewed in real time to immediately show potential sources of damage in processing lines. Built-in memory also allows the logger to record both shocks and temperature changes independently, ideal for discreet logging of transport shipments.

Impacts can be recorded throughout the entire production process. “The data gave us the opportunity to detect the hot spots in the logistics chain. Both parameters, g-force applied and temperature, are recorded. We were able to record the entire process, from harvest to packaging,” said Restrepo.

Results from Ocoa’s tests highlighted significant impacts which coincided with events along the processing chain such as harvesting, loading and unloading.

Lishman, added: “We have seen very similar results from other firms here in the UK, revealing production areas that don’t look visibly damaging until tested with ImpacTrack”.

According to Restrepo, ImpacTrack has helped the company to improve the quality of its avocados.

“We were able to clearly see the areas of production that needed attention and have made adjustments to help reduce impacts.

“This has helped us to reduce waste and, knowing that the fruits are being handled carefully, has given us a reassurance boost that the avocados are of the best quality.”

Martin Lishman has worked closely with growers and producers worldwide to fine tune the design and range of more than 25 ImpacTrack shapes, which now includes clementine, pear, kiwifruit and garlic in addition to a range of apple shapes and sizes.

“It became clear that we cannot offer the customer a product such as ImpacTrack without first understanding their requirements,” Lishman said.

“Growers and processors have specifications to meet and that’s why our brilliant in-house design team can reproduce almost any shape at the correct weight and density to ensure it’s as close to the real thing as possible.”