One such example of Chinese tech company putting AI to work is Deltron. The company provides intelligent fruit and vegetable grading and sorting solutions to the fruit industry; from major fruit producing areas to supermarket brands such as Walmart and Pagoda. The makeup of Deltron is in their spectrum technology with AI algorithms. Through this tech, Deltron aims to innovate the traditional agricultural business with two core modules integrated in their spectrum technology, which are “SpekSense” and “SpekVision”, and a third product that is ultimately a business intelligence software system integrated within the two hardware modules.
“These two modules can detect the internal quality [SpekSense module] and external quality [SpekVision module] of the fruit without destroying them,” says Ria Chen, marketing director at Deltron. “We put these two core modules into two product lines to serve the fruit industry. One is the intelligent fruit sorting line and the other one is a portable quality detector. For upstream customers, like fruit growers and the sorting factories, we will provide them with an intelligent fruit sorting line, which with our help can deal with mass fruit processing. Right now, after harvesting, most of the fruit are sorted manually, this costs a lot of time and human resources. Not to mention, humans cannot identify the internal quality of the food [without opening them up]. But through our intelligence sorting machine, they only need to put the fruits into our equipment and we can help them sort all the fruit according to specific standards.”
“For downstream retailers, such as supermarkets, we provide them a portable spectrum detector to help manage the quality control section,” says Chen, while pointing out that Deltron’s detector can help customers quickly get the internal quality results, such as the sweetness level, maturity level, moisture proportion... of the fruit without destroying them. One of Deltron’s key customers, Pagoda, one of the largest high-end retailers in China, has strict quality control protocols. Deltron’s technology helps the big retailer assess fruits by simply passing it through their detectors without having to damage the product for immediate results, saving precious time and commodities. In effect, this reduces the amount of waste generated in the sorting process, which is an area open to much improvement and opportunities.
“All the sorting and detecting data will be collected and uploaded to the cloud,” says Chen. “So our customer can use the invaluable information we provide to make scientific decisions and manage their supply chain.”
Walmart is the first to initiate Deltron’s pilot programme by using their portable detector in their quality controls in China. “We did encounter problems when they used our product, and we received invaluable feedback. For example, they needed a lot of throttle varieties. Also at that time, we only provided apples and pears’ models. They have requested to include oranges. So far our detector has covered over 60 varieties of fruits. They also remarked that our detector is not portable enough and as a result we made improvements on the structure to allow it to be more mobile.” Deltron and Walmart’s cooperation started in April 2020, and already the former has fine-tuned their technology to address the needs of a big retailer.
This is an example of an immediate response time from foodtech companies in which businesses have to react and provide solutions almost instantaneously.
Apart from saving precious operation time as one key driver to foodtech innovation, other drivers include an increasingly higher requirement for food quality from consumers, Chen adds. “Everyone wants to eat tasty food. Such higher requirements force upstream customers to make changes and upgrades, leading to promoting a large number of technological innovations within our industry.”
China is projected to increase economic support to some major food producing areas within their borders in order to attract companies to settle in local areas such as Shandong and Shanxi provinces.
“The government provides preferential tax reduction policies,” says Chen. “They also provide free office space and can introduce customers to companies. For example, the Shandong Province introduced supporting policies related to the apple growing industry.”
Deltron was also limited to visiting customers due to social distancing and lockdown measures caused by COVID-19 . However, in the industry, Chen says, produce still needs to be harvested, sorted and delivered to customers all over the world. “Due to the pandemic, the demand for intelligence fruit sorting has become even greater as people can’t gather anymore. During this period, we accelerated our R&D and business work in April [last year], such as our cooperation with Walmart. In October, we started our PoC [Proof of Concept] cooperation with Pagoda, and in November we launched our intelligent auto sorting line to the lemon producing area of Sichuan province.”
Through Deltron’s products, farmers also have the option to grow better fruits as the technology allows them to pinpoint the superior and more popular products, in which case they can focus on producing more of those, and help reduce waste.
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