Sweet Science: A new device for checking apple ripeness

Agriculture and Agri-Food scientists in Summerland, B.C. and Kentville, N.S., are working to give apple producers cutting edge technology to ensure market success. They are developing data protocols for the DA Meter, a special tool that helps fruit producers to determine optimal ripeness of their crop. When it first came on the market, the DA Meter was not well adapted to reading apple ripeness. With the new protocols and light hood, the tool will change how and when Canadian apple growers harvest their fruit.

Learn in this video how the taste of science is sweet.

Video Transcript

[An image and a maple leaf appear on screen. This is the title graphic for the video.]

[Light, electronic music fades in.]

Text on screen: Sweet Science, New device for verifying apple ripeness

[The video opens with a panning image of the apple tree test plots at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland, British Columbia.]

Narrator: Apple producers in Canada face various challenges throughout the growing season.

[The shot changes to show a different view of the apple tree test plots.]

[Close up of golden delicious apples on the tree.]

One challenge is being able to predict exactly when crops are ready for harvest.

[Close up of ambrosia apples on the tree.]

[Light, electronic music fades continues.]

Researchers in Summerland, British Columbia and Kentville, Nova Scotia...

[The camera tracks along rows of apple trees at the research centre. Suddenly the image blurs and a map of Canada appears over top. A line appears to indicate the position of Summerland within the country.]

Text on screen: Summerland, British Columbia

...are creating the protocols for the DA Meter, a new tool that takes the guesswork out of apple harvest.

[The shot changes to show Dr. Peter Toivonen standing in his lab. He is holding an electronic device.]

Text on screen: Dr. Peter Toivonen, Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Dr. Toivonen: You can't judge an apple by its looks.

[The shot changes to show a close up of the electronic device that Dr. Toivonen is holding. Text appears on screen.]

[Light, electronic music fades continues.]

Text on screen: DA Meter

That's why we have an instrument like the DA Meter to help us know what's going on inside this apple.

[The shot changes back to Dr. Toivonen standing in his lab holding the DA Meter. He indicates the centre of the device which has several LED lights.]

The way this instrument works is that it has LEDs on the outside of the sensor.

[The shot changes to show a close up of the LED lights surrounding the sensor on the DA Meter.]

When you shine the light on the apple it goes into the fruit...

[The shot changes to show a close up of Dr. Toivonen using the DA Meter in one of the test plots at the research centre.]

...and it gets reflected back.

[The shot changes back to Dr. Toivonen in his lab holding the DA Meter.]

[Light, electronic music fades continues.]

What we're measuring is the chlorophyll content of the peel of that apple with this instrument.

[The shot changes to show a wider view of Dr. Toivonen in his lab holding the DA Meter. He picks up a bright red apple.]

You might think that this is a bright, red apple and therefore it's ready to eat.

[The shot changes to show a close up of Dr. Toivonen using the DA Meter on that bright, red apple.]

The DA Meter tells that no, it has a little ways to go yet.

[Text appears on screen.]

Text on screen: Not ripe

[The shot changes back to Dr. Toivonen in his lab holding the DA Meter. He picks up an apple that isn't as red as the one he was previously holding.]

[Light, electronic music fades continues.]

You might say that this one is not red enough yet and it's not ready to go.

[The shot changes to show a close up of Dr. Toivonen using the DA Meter on the less ripe apple.]

The DA Meter tells us that yes, it is ready to go.

[Text appears on screen.]

Text on screen: Ripe

[The shot changes to show one of Dr. Toivonen's research assistants working in the lab. She is cutting apples that they are using to test for ripeness.]

[Light, electronic music fades continues.]

Narrator: Typically, to measure apple ripeness, producers test the fruit for its starch content. They pick the apples, cut them open, and spray them with iodine.

[The shot changes to show the research assistant spraying the cut apples with an iodine solution.]

The iodine reacts with the starch in the fruit and turns black.

[The shot changes to show a close up of the iodine being applied to the apples. We can see that the apples are trying to change colour.]

[Light, electronic music fades continues.]

It’s a visual indication of ripeness. Unfortunately, this technique is imprecise...

[The shot changes to show cut apples and apple pulp that is being thrown out.]

... and the grower loses fruit.

[The shot changes to show Charlotte Leaming using the DA Meter in the field.]

Charlotte Leaming: The new DA Meter is a real advancement in maturity testing.

[We now see Charlotte Leaming standing amongst apple trees holding the DA Meter. She is addressing the camera.]

[Light, electronic music fades continues.]

It means that I can test the apples here on the tree and leave the apple on the tree.

Text on screen: Charlotte Leaming, Field Services Manager (Similkameen), BC Tree Fruits Cooperative

[The shot changes to show apples growing on a tree.]

[The shot changes back to show Charlotte Leaming standing amongst the apple trees.]

It's the maturity of the fruit that is so important in keeping the fruit quality high all the way through the storage season.

[The shot changes to show a long shot of a an apple orchard. As Charlotte speaks different sections of the orchard are highlighted and various statements appear on screen.]

[Light, electronic music fades continues.]

Text on screen: Not ripe

We can also predict better in the field which parts of the field...

Text on screen: Ripe

...which parts of the field are ripening ahead of which other parts...

Text on screen: Over ripe

[The shot changes back to Charlotte Leaming standing amongst apple trees and holding the DA Meter.]

...to aid the whole harvest period for the growers. Again, without destroying the fruit you get to do a lot more testing.

[The shot changes to show many bright red apples growing on a tree.]

[Light, electronic music fades continues.]

Narrator: Agriculture and Agri-Food scientists are working hard to give apple producers cutting edge technology that will help ensure market success. The researchers in Summerland are working on protocols for the Ambrosia, Golden Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Salish and Aurora Golden Gala, as well as several yet unnamed cultivars. In Kentville, they are working on the Honeycrisp. Protocol data will be released to apple grower associations for new varieties as they come available.

[The shot changes to show Dr. Toivonen in the field using the DA Meter.]

[The shot changes to show Dr. Toivonen in his lab. He takes a big bite out of a ripe apple.]

For Canadian apple producers, smart science is sweet.

[Fade to white.]

[Fade up from white.]

Text on screen: Modern. Innovative. Growing. Discover other agricultural innovations at www.agr.gc.ca.

[Light, electronic music fades out.]

Text on screen: Canada, © Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (2014).

[Fade to black.]

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