The idea of time travel is something that has captivated people for centuries. At Apeel, we’re working on ways to play with time too. Although we haven’t invented a Back to the Future machine, we have created a way to double the shelf life of fresh produce.
So while time machines are still hard to come by, we have our Apeel Time-Lapse Machine that can show side by side Apeel vs non-treated produce over time. You can watch a strawberry change through 45 days, an avocado over 25 days, and a week in the life of string beans. Sped up, these videos show the Apeel-treated produce lasting longer every time.
Made of materials found in every bite of produce, Apeel adds a little extra peel to the surface of fresh produce. This allows more time to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, a dramatic reduction in food waste and the opportunity for fresh food to reach more people. To test it, we use our Apeel Time-Lapse Machine that is run by Tim Cronshaw, one of our software engineers. Besides having helped create it, he also works to perfect its operation. We sat down with him to learn more about the power of the Apeel Time-Lapse Machine and how it has shared the promise of Apeel technology with millions of people.
What makes the Apeel Time-Lapse Machine special?
The Apeel Time-Lapse Machine is integral to many different facets of Apeel Sciences. Time-lapse videos are the best medium for quickly and dramatically conveying to someone the benefits of our product, and the technology can be adapted to many types of produce.
Not only do our time-lapse slides (the individual produce videos) create an accessible and easy-to-understand demonstration of Apeel’s product, but they also provide our research teams with important qualitative data that assists with designing formulations. There isn’t an Apeel formulation today that hasn’t been thoroughly proven out through time-lapse.
How was the machine made? What technology does it use?
It took about six months to design and build the machine, and another six months to fine-tune its operation. 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, the machine is teaching itself to recognize new images as being inside or outside of quality parameters.
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!
How many pictures has the Apeel Time-Lapse Machine taken?
The Apeel Time-Lapse Machine usually runs once every 30 minutes for experiments that last anywhere from a few days to half a year. All in all, over the past 5 years, it has taken just under 2.5 million pictures (so far!).
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.
Want to learn more about Apeel’s technology? Fill out a business inquiry form on our website and you’ll be connected to a member of our sales team. We look forward to hearing from you!