Harnessing artificial intelligence offers a real way to guarantee sustainable fresh produce quality control

Elad Mardix Clarifruit

Elad Mardix, Clarifruit

For the fresh produce industry, quality control has always been a thorny issue. The industry now faces additional challenges in balancing commercial pressures, consumer expectations, and increasingly urgent sustainability concerns. And traditional, manual methods can only offer diminishing returns.

In this article, we will explore the benefits of artificial intelligence in fresh produce quality control and production. In particular, we’ll take a look at how AI solutions can make these processes both more efficient and more sustainable, enabling much-needed improvements to the industry at large. 

The elephant in the room

The fresh produce industry has a waste problem. We know that the annual waste of fresh produce amounts to around US$900bn, representing approximately 45 per cent of grown fresh fruit and vegetables.

We also know that the majority of that waste sits upstream at the supplier level, from grower down to the wholesaler segment. What is urgently needed is a way to make production and evaluation more efficient and more accurate, free of human dependencies and biases.

In addition, it’s essential for sellers and buyers to work to a set of unified benchmarks on which both can depend, in order to reduce rejects, price negotiations and quality mismatches.

Integrating AI into fresh produce quality control makes all of this possible, to a degree that could only have been imagined in the past. AI systems enable greater speed, consistency, objectivity, and ease of use compared with traditional methods.

Systems now exist that can accurately identify defects, reduce waste, extend shelf-life, and prevent harmful produce from reaching consumers. By harnessing AI, the industry can significantly improve efficiency and ensure high-quality products, while reducing the environmental and commercial damage caused by waste, now estimated at somewhere around 45 per cent for fruits and vegetables. 

AI-driven, sustainable transport

The waste problem is well known, but the industry’s sustainability woes don’t end there. Refrigerated transport has a significant carbon footprint, making supply chain optimisation an urgent priority for the fresh produce industry.

Here, too, AI is already having an appreciable impact through data-driven inventory management and real-time monitoring that enables the exclusion of sub-par produce from transportation routes. 

Cultivating the future

We foresee an AI-led revolution in fresh produce quality control. Ongoing research in AI and big data analytics holds promise for improving the performance of sustainable agriculture supply chains.

Continued innovation and investment in AI technology are essential for further advancements in the industry. By optimising growing conditions, minimising waste, and improving transportation efficiency, AI plays a pivotal role in promoting sustainability in the fresh produce industry.

To support these efforts, it is crucial for stakeholders to invest in AI technology and embrace sustainable practices. By doing so, we can scale the production of high-quality fresh produce, without scaling the industry’s ecological impact.

Elad Mardix is CEO and co-founder of quality control specialist Clarifruit.