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Meet the Apeel Time-Lapse Machine

Author: Apeel Team

The Apeel Time-Lapse Machine is integral to many different facets of our company. From proving out new formulations to helping explain existing ones, our time-lapse videos gives our research teams crucial qualitative data and creates an accessible and easy-to-understand demonstration of our product benefits to our partners and consumers. 

Although the side by side comparison videos of Apeel produce versus non-Apeel treated produce looks very simple, the machine itself is complex. There wasn't an off-the-shelf system we could buy to do and show what we needed so we built one.

Along with his team, Tim Cronshaw, a software engineer at Apeel worked to build and perfect the time-lapse machine over the course of a year. Today, the team continues to work on its operations and improvements.

We talked with Tim to learn more about the machine, its technology, the millions of photos it has taken and, most importantly, the best fruit to film.

How many photos has the Apeel Time-Lapse machine taken?

Over the past 6 years, the Apeel Time-Lapse Machine has taken around 4 million pictures across various experiments by snapping once every 30 minutes.


How was the machine made? What technology does it use?

The hardware consists of a camera mounted on a track above a shelf that holds produce samples, a stepper motor that slides the camera between samples, and a Raspberry Pi mini-computer that controls the hardware and maintains the time-lapse sequence. An internal server computer pulls images from the Raspberry Pis to automatically produce analytical reports with estimated volume loss, color change, and finalized videos.

We also use TensorFlow, Google's open-source software for machine learning, which empowers an especially promising type of image analysis. As our research teams continue to mark thousands of individual images as either acceptable or unacceptable examples of color and other produce traits, our models learn these produce quality features, and how to automatically distinguish them in new images.

Which fruit are you most excited to see in the time-lapse room?

Whenever our research team brings in strawberries, I know that we’re in for something fun. The differences between Apeel-treated strawberries and non-treated strawberries are very stark, with the non-treated strawberries inevitably becoming shriveled and covered in mold, while the Apeel strawberries remain fresh.

I also enjoy watching the tomatoes. Sometimes they last so long that their own seeds sprout from within themselves!

Which pictures come to mind as the most exceptional you’ve ever seen?

The ones that come to mind are very old nectarines and somewhat beautiful (but still foul) tomatoes.

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