Sweetness head cam

Sweetness head cam
New near infrared camera technology is capable of processing up to 10 pieces of citrus per second per lane, with superior accuracy, is non-invasive and will not damage the fruit as it assesses the sugar content.

Australian citrus research has taken on a new dimension, employing state of the art camera technology at Dareton research station to calculate the sweetness and dry-matter of citrus fruit.

A type of light invisible to the human eye, near infrared light occurs naturally in the sun and it is produced by most flood lights. As a piece of fruit travels along the sorting machine and passes underneath a detector, near infrared light is aimed at the fruit. When the infrared light enters the fruit, the light responds differently according to the fruit’s internal characteristics.

The technology analyses this response and determines the levels of particular substances in the fruit such as the amount of sugar (its sweetness). The new equipment has an oscillating head which comes into contact with each single fruit when it passes under the camera.

NSW Department of Primary Industries’ research station at Dareton is one of the leading citrus facilities in Australia and the first to use Near Infra-Red (NIR) equipment. Known as an InSight Sweetness Head, the equipment is attached to a colour vision grading machine that enables researchers to include colour and blemish grading in their trials.

It is capable of processing up to 10 pieces of fruit per second per lane, with superior, non-invasive accuracy, and will not damage fruit. This method reduces the destructive and labour intensive method previously used to assess the sugar content of fruit.

While NIR technology has been used for rock melon grading at Bourke and in Japan for sorting Satsuma mandarins, it has not been used commercially for citrus in Australia. It can be adapted to most conveyor types with interfaces available for all major conveyor brands. Australian citrus packing organisations are currently investigating the use of this form of citrus grading.

The quality and uniformity of the fruit is improved in the packing line, providing consumers with consistently high quality produce which results in increased demand. The technology enables the grower to meet buyers’ requirements for minimum average sugar or dry matter content of consignments, and can also measure agronomic performance to improve crop quality and yields.

The Dareton research and advisory station has extensive areas of citrus trials, and provides research and advisory services for wine, dried and table grapes, vegetables, irrigation/salinity and broad-acre cropping and grazing.