There is a growing demand for palm oil due to the global expansion by the food processing industry. In the South East Asia region, Indonesia and Malaysia have led the global dominance of palm oil cultivation. Although there are technological advances in the oil palm harvesting process in these countries, the ripeness determination of the oil palm Fresh Fruit Bunch (FBB) is still mainly determined by human visual inspection which is prone to errors. We propose a portable oil palm FFB ripeness measurement device that offers the palm oil industry an accurate method of measuring oil palm FFB ripeness.
The yield of palm oil is linked to the oil palm FFB’s degree of ripeness when they are harvested. If they are harvested too early (during unripe or under-ripe stage), the oil content will be very low. Currently, the ripeness judgement is made by human visual inspection and is subjected to errors especially when the oil palm FFB is under-ripe where the colour is similar to a ripe oil palm FFB. It is even more difficult to make good ripeness judgement during harvesting at the plantation from tall palm trees.
Technology Features, Specifications and Advantages
Our device determines the oil palm FFB’s ripeness by measuring the spectral response of the fruitlets based on their reflection characteristics of emitted light source of different wavelengths. The ripeness determination algorithm is based on machine learning results of the different wavelength reflection response of many bunches of oil palm FFB data. Our device is portable (single hand) and is capable of taking fast measurement time at 2 seconds.
Our proposed technology is targeted to be used in two areas of the palm oil industry. The first is at the plantation as a harvesting aid to reduce the error of harvesting unripe and under-ripe oil palm FFBs. The second is at the collection centres and mills as a ripeness grading device to help to filter out unripe or under-ripe oil palm FFB so as to improve the quality of input for the milling process.
There have been many researches to develop an oil palm FFB ripeness determination system/device using technologies such as RGB camera sensors but these are not accurate and are usually not portable. They also do not work well in outdoor conditions under strong sunlight. In the context of Malaysia oil palm industry, our device will help plantation owners to reduce the harvesting of unripe and under-ripe fruits hence providing good input at the front end to the mills. At the collection centres and mills, our device can be used as a QC and enforcement device so as to reduce wastage as well as reducing the increased equipment wear and tear from processing unripe oil palm FFBs.