No more a sour bite

New tech brings good news for Mango lovers

Ardent Mango connoisseurs occasionally bite into a fruit infested with pests or which are spoilt from inside.

They will be able to relish their dish in peace now, thanks to a new technology that promises to deliver healthy, full-grown mangoes.

Whether it is ‘Alphonso’, the most delicious of them all from the Western Konkan coast or Tamil Nadu’s ‘Neelam’ or ‘Totapuri’ or Andhra Pradesh’s ‘Banganapalle’ -- they all could benefit from a new device currently moving beyond the prototype stage. This is also a blessing for mango exporters, who are occasionally stranded with rotten fruits.  

Dr R Govindaraj, scientist at the ‘Central Electronics Engineering Research Institute (CEERI)’ lab in Chennai, part of the nationwide CSIR chain of research laboratories, showcased on Wednesday, a prototype of ‘On-line Mango Sorting System’ that uses ‘soft x-ray imaging’ to detect possible quality defects inside the fruit, without having to dissect it.

The Alphonsos may gleam and look

delicious from outside. But within the fruit, the pulp may turn out to be highly acidic, a problem that dogs exporters, explained Govindaraj. In ‘Neelam’ and ‘Totapuri’, producers face the problem of ‘seed weevil’, an infected spongy tissue inside the fruit, which is not visible to the naked eye.

With a modest grant from the Central Department of Science and Technology, Govindaraj has been developing an on-line scan system for mangoes using tiny doses of x-ray called ‘soft x-rays’. The ‘soft X-rays’ scanning the mangoes are within the ‘200 grey to 800 grey’ norm set by Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and are not hazardous, he told Deccan Herald.  

“The X-ray imaging system has been integrated with a mango feeding conveyor and sorting assembly,’’ says Govindaraj. The mangoes move on a conveyer belt and exposed to soft x-rays for a fraction of a second. Embedded ‘software modules’ in the system, capture images and analyse them. As the mangoes come out, the device sorts them automatically and rejects the defective fruits.

“This will be a big boost to mango exporters in particular,” says Govindaraj. Usually export-variety mangoes like ‘Alphonso’ are sorted by their colour, shape and size. Using this machine exporters would be able to check for quality of even the just harvested fruits entering the maturing stage.

“We have already showed live demos to the food industry representatives in the South and traders at Ratnagiri, where the famous ‘Alphonso’ mangoes are extensively cultivated,” he said.

In developing this technology, the CSIR lab was generously assisted by the ‘B S Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth’ at Dapoli in Maharashtra, which provided them a large number of ‘Alphonso’ mangoes for testing, the Konkan University in Rathnagiri and the ‘Mango Export Facility Centre’ of the Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board in Rathnagiri.

Some 20,000 ‘alphonso’ mangoes had to be tested to streamline the technology, which also received technical assistance from Electronics Corporation of India Ltd, Hyderabad. The Indian Institute of Horticulture Research in Bangalore and the ‘Agriculture Products Export Development Authority (APEDA)’ provided domain knowledge for the project.

The trial runs of this X-ray sorting system were successful and the detection accuracy rates ranged from 95 to 98 per cent. The CSIR lab’s know-how has been transferred to a Chennai-based company and the task now is to have a “low-cost portable model” for the entire industry, Govindaraj said.

Govindaraj, on a personal note, looked even more gratified as he was given the privilege of unveiling his technology on the occasion of ‘National Technology Day’ at the CSIR Institutional complex here.

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