How many times have you walked into the produce section of the supermarket, only to find that the fruits and vegetables sitting there are all over-ripe? It’s a common problem, and one that produces billions of dollars worth of food waste every year. The issue can be traced back to faulty “best by” dates that often overestimate how much time a piece of produce has left before it turns into a brown blob. And the solution, according to researchers at The Syngenta Sensors University Innovation Centre, is fairly simple: attach smart sensors to the food.
The researchers’ battery-free RFID tags monitor and record so-called “stress profiles” of food products. Each silicon sensor, which only costs approximately 16 cents, tracks an individual package of food–i.e. a box of strawberries–from the farm to the supermarket. So if the strawberries are battered into submission at some point during their journeys, the tags will keep track. Silicon sensors will be available in three to five years, but plastic sensors that cost as little to print as a bar code could be ready in just six years.
The technology could have an impact that reaches far beyond our dinner plates–rejected produce could be saved the trip from the farm to the store, and over-ripe food might be spared a trip to the local landfill. And in the end, produce costs might drop, which means nutritious food options could become more widely available. All because of a little silicon sensor.