Taste is paramount in food products, impacting consumer preferences and purchasing decisions. Condi Food BV harnesses hyperspectral imaging (HSI) to ensure the perfect taste of tomatoes.

Condi Food BV, a Dutch company specializing in hyperspectral imaging (HSI) solutions for food quality and safety inspection, developed an innovative solution to evaluate the taste of cherry tomatoes in real time based on hyperspectral imaging.

Taste is an essential criterion for consumers when choosing a brand. Cherry tomatoes used to be sorted solely based on size and color. However, a tomato’s perfect looks do not guarantee its taste meets consumer requirements.

Using the Specim FX17 near-infrared hyperspectral camera, Condi Food can nondestructively and efficiently scan individual cherry tomatoes on a production line for key taste attributes. This not only ensures market appeal and consistency in food products but also reduces food waste.

Hyperspectral imaging captures the invisible taste characteristics

Taste is an invisible characteristic that cannot be detected using traditional vision techniques, so Condi Food turned to hyperspectral imaging. By analyzing the spectral signature of various compounds present in food, hyperspectral imaging provides valuable information about taste attributes.

“Hyperspectral imaging allows us to analyze food’s chemical composition, uncovering hidden characteristics such as ripeness, brix, and acidity. These factors are crucial in determining taste quality but remain invisible to the human eye and cannot be detected through traditional vision techniques,” says Robi Nederlof, Managing Director of Condi Food.

Condi Food harnessed the sensitivity of the Specim HSI camera to detect the cherry tomatoes’ taste attributes at high production speeds, allowing for seamless integration into the sorting process.

Based on insights gained from the hyperspectral data analysis and working closely with their customer, Condi Food developed a taste model that comprises all the elements and characteristics relevant to taste. The model incorporates input from taste panels and utilizes chemometrics and machine learning techniques to create a comprehensive model. While the current solution focuses on tomatoes, a similar method could be used to find desired features in a wide range of other vegetables and fruits.

High-speed and non-destructive vegetable inspection

The taste system interfaces seamlessly with a Unitec sorting system, supporting the real-time, in-line, and high-speed selection of the tastiest individual honey cherry tomatoes.

“The Specim FX17 camera enables us to detect the taste characteristics at high production speeds of up to 30 ms per tomato or 60 tomatoes per second on two parallel lanes without damaging or touching the fruit. This efficiency allows us to seamlessly integrate taste inspection into the production line without causing any disruption,” Mr. Nederlof highlights.

Condi Food carefully considered external (the environment) and internal (housing) factors during development to ensure the model’s accuracy and stability. Their analysis software also allows regular statistical quantification to ensure the detection system remains reliable.

Condi Food has also developed a standardized software platform that controls the cameras, acquires images, preprocesses data, accommodates the taste model, presents production statistics, synchronizes statistics to a customer server, and interfaces with a sorter machine.

Technical excellence and good local support 

Condi Food has been satisfied with the technical performance of Specim cameras and with the support of the local distributor, SpectraPartners.

“Specim is a major brand that offers technical excellence and good local support. Their hyperspectral cameras are off-the-shelf industrial solutions that are sensitive, high-speed, and reliable, all at a competitive price. We are extremely satisfied with their performance and service,” Mr. Nederlof states.

Hyperspectral imaging has redefined the landscape of advanced quality detection, and Condi Food remains committed to leveraging cutting-edge technologies and techniques to ensure high-quality and flavorful food products.

According to Robi Nederlof, Managing Director of Condi Food, “HSI has become a critical tool for advanced quality detection in the food industry. With the challenges in producing agri-products in greenhouses in the Netherlands and increased import of fresh products, inspection becomes essential to maintain the consumers’ high-quality standards.”

Specim FX17