The Rapid Assessment Unit’s goal is to assess and improve the safety and quality of food and agriculture biological products through the development, delivery and implementation of non-invasive assessment technologies and to assist in the commercialisation of these technologies.
New high speed non-destructive testing and grading technologies are needed to provide produce that consistently meet with market expectations. Visible-Near Infrared technology can be used to non-invasively measure internal product quality of biological products (i.e., fruit and vegetables, meat, seafood and liquids) by using reflected or transmitted light to determine chemical composition (i.e., sweetness, acidity, maturity).
Visible-Near Infrared Spectrosopic assessment offers the advantage of being non-destructive, fraction of a second per test, and the potential to test every piece of product in an in-line application for various external and internal quality and safety attributes. The application of this technology has potential to improve product consistency and quality, extend periods of supply to extend seasons, higher returns and greater market share, target new and overseas markets more confidently and guarantee a safe final product for eating.
Sandalwood core sample assessment using a Bruker Fourier Transform Near Infrared Multi Purpose Analyser (MPA). (Left) Fitted solids probe. (Right) Sandalwood ground sample on MPA integrating sphere carousel.
The Rapid Assessment Unit has focussed on development of in-line high-throughput robust commercial detection systems. The Rapid Assessment Unit will continue to develop and support implementation of in-line detection systems, as well as identifying miniature and relatively inexpensive non-invasive systems suitable for in-situ monitoring of product quality and safety. Investigation of individual plant and orchard monitoring systems, in conjunction with remote sensing research groups, are also included in the Rapid Assessment Unit’s research agenda to ascertain nutrient requirements and provide nutrition to plants on an individual basis.
A Visible-Near Infrared research inline system used to grade avocados
The adoption of these technologies has the potential to give Australian primary producers and processors a competitive advantage in their markets. Although the technologies are not well established in other countries, there is an increasing level of worldwide interest in non-invasive assessment of bio-based products.
Economic pressure will rapidly drive change in agronomic practice to embrace procedures that improve eating quality attributes and deliver guaranteed safe products for consumption. Non-invasive technologies may be utilised within breeding programs as a rapid assessment tool. Links could be established with breeding programs, and this technology used as part of the selection process.