There’s something in the air at Boston-area universities. The smell of rotten fruit, perhaps?
Last week I wrote about a Tufts project to embed scannable, edible patches on food items to communicate bacteria levels. Now comes word of an M.I.T. project to help retailers know when food is ripening:
The new sensors, described in the journal Angewandte Chemie, can detect tiny amounts of ethylene, a gas that promotes ripening in plants. Swager envisions the inexpensive sensors attached to cardboard boxes of produce and scanned with a handheld device that would reveal the contents’ ripeness. That way, grocers would know when to put certain items on sale to move them before they get too ripe.
These ethylene sensors could be a useful idea for a supermarket industry that loses about 10% of its fresh fruits annually. Especially given that the supermarket industry is now contemplating how to reduce its food waste.
My guess is that these sensors will sink or swim on affordability. At about $1 for both the sensor that detects ethylene levels and the RFID chip to communicate them, I’d say they’re on the right track.