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The main goal of our study was to see whether an artificial olfactory system can be used as a nondestructive instrument to measure fruit maturity. In order to make an objective comparison, samples measured with our electronic nose prototype were later characterized using fruit quality techniques. The cultivars chosen for the study were peaches, nectarines, apples, and pears. With peaches and nectarines, a PCA analysis on the electronic nose measurements helped to guess optimal harvest dates that were in good agreement with the ones obtained with fruit quality techniques. A good correlation between sensor signals and some fruit quality indicators was also found. With pears, the study addressed the possibility of classifying samples regarding their ripeness state after different cold storage and shelf-life periods. A PCA analysis showed good separation between samples measured after a shelf-life period of seven days and samples with four or less days. Finally, the electronic nose monitored the shelf-life ripening of apples. A good correlation between electronic nose signals and firmness, starch index, and acidity parameters was found. These results prove that electronic noses have the potential of becoming a reliable instrument to assess fruit ripeness.
Date of Publication: Feb. 2005