Preventing Wasted Food
Have you ever wondered about all the spoiled produce that stores inevitably have to throw away on a weekly basis? According to the Department of Agriculture it’s a whopping ten percent of supermarkets’ fruits and vegetables that is lost to spoilage every year. That’s an incredible amount of wasted food. An MIT chemistry professor and his students have tackled this disturbing problem and have built a new sensor that could help food distributors and grocers monitor the freshness of their produce. These sensors detect small amounts of ethylene gas, a plant hormone that promotes ripening. With such a means to monitor ripeness, grocers could move produce before it gets too ripe. Currently, only large warehouse facilities can afford to monitor ethylene because the equipment is quite expensive, but the MIT research team built a small sensor that can detect levels of ethylene as low as 0.5 parts per million at a fraction of the cost. In fact, a sensor for a box of produce could be as inexpensive as 25 cents, and the radio frequency ID chip that could communicate with a handheld device displaying ethylene levels would be just 75 cents more.