Bananas are one of the most traded fruits across the globe. To paint a clearer picture, in 2017, 20% of the global production was traded. That’s equal to 22.7 million tons of bananas. 

In recent years, those numbers have jumped. As of 2019, the global export of bananas was 20 million tons and the net import volume 18.9 million tons. 

The leading producer of the berry (yes, banana are berries) is India, capturing 25.7% of the total 116.0 million ton production. But the largest exporter is Ecuador holding 24.8% of the global pie. While the US holds the positions of the leading banana importer. 

The long and short of it is, every country either grows bananas for local consumption or to trade it. Yet, the sector faces important challenges that need to be addressed immediately.

The race to the bottom on banana quality 

The first strain of Fusarium Wilt disease wiped out a banana variety in the 50s. Its new strain - Tropical Race 4 - is now threatening to do the same to Cavendish variety, the most commercialised banana

Perishability is another issue in the banana world. Like most fruits, it has to be packed in boxes for export, or the quality deteriorates. A delay in the supply is also troublesome

It not only impacts fruit quality but also causes shrinkage with the weight and value of the banana shipment received by the importing country being diminished. Then there are the rising production costs. 

Combined, the troubles are forcing banana growers and traders to progressively lower standards.  

For instance, a banana exporter packs and handles millions of cartons each year. Every carton has to be packed to the customer’s specifications and at optimal maturity. This requires a highly trained quality team. 

The cost associated with trained and expert quality professionals is sky-high. Even if a business can afford it, the quality across banana cartons is still inconsistent because manual assessments are subjective. 

Reading colour can be subjective.

One example is colour, an important quality parameter in bananas. Since the human eye is biased, matching colour to the palette is an issue

Additionally, lighting conditions change the visible colour. The same yellow appears as different shades when seen in sunny outdoors or inside in white light. 

Double the work on shape and size

Besides the colour, the size and the shape of the banana also need assessment. That means twice the effort for your quality teams. First, you measure the length and the diameter, then the appearance. 

To simplify, relying on manual quality-assurance leads to inaccurate data, more work, and irregularities. And that leaves banana growers and traders smack-dab in the middle of the indecision zone. 

Will the fruit be rejected because the diameter was off by a few decimals? Does the banana colour match the exact specifications?”

Unpeeling objective quality in bananas

The reality of the conventional way of doing things proves that the banana world needs a different approach. An approach based on technology as simple as an app. 

The app captures accurate data and serves up the banana size distribution, colour variations, and shape within seconds. And it does it without requiring expensive equipment. 

All you need to do is take a picture of the bananas with a smartphone or tablet, and the job is done.

The app even comes with different light settings that you can adjust based on the environment. It removes the difference well-lit or dark places make on the banana colour. 

But most importantly, the app empowers decision making. With objective data on all quality parameters, you can confidently grow your business. 

Growers can use apps like Intello Track for quick size assessment right at farmgate. Traders can utilise it for quality assurance. At receiving, it swiftly records the banana size, colour and shape data, eliminating packing line resets. At shipping, it speeds up packing based on customer specifications, minimising wasted fruit and labour!

The benefits of digitising banana quality 

  • Cut down manual effort and save time.
  • Automatically capture and record data with a click. 
  • Reduce rejections with objective, standardised quality.
  • Complete traceability on lots, locations and supply chain.
  • Less damage to bananas with almost touchless technology.

The force field of objective banana quality 

If you spend conversations waiting to say your piece, you’re only listening to yourself. It’s the same with quality. You have to look out for what the fruit is saying, not just what your eyes tell you. 

For that, you need to capture every data point possible with objectivity. That’s what tools like Intello Track offer. You’re not simply digitising banana quality. You’re using technology that protects your business in ways you’ve never imagined.

Tanmay Bhargava

Written by Tanmay Bhargava