The clementines that Avi Schwartzer picked from his backyard tasted disappointingly bland. As a computer scientist then working as R&D manager at Hewlett-Packard in Israel, he figured there must be a tool or app to help determine, on the spot, a fruit’s quality and ripeness.
He discovered “lots of scientific instruments” that each provide little pieces of this puzzle, necessitating further analysis and interpretation.
“Fast feedback is well-known in the software industry, and I was amazed that feedback in the agriculture world is so slow,” Schwartzer tells ISRAEL21c.
“This is when I came up with the idea for the AclaroMeter,” says Schwartzer, who based the name on a Latin word for understanding or clarity.
“Know Your Fruit” is the motto of AclarTech, the company he founded in December 2016 with partner Ruby Boyarski in the Rehovot suburb of Ness Ziona.
While such a meter would be welcomed by home gardeners like him, Schwartzer realized that the real market is farmers, wholesalers and retailers. And in fact, when he started developing the AclaroMeter prototype, people in those sectors responded enthusiastically.
“Over and over we heard, ‘I have been looking for something like this for 10 years!’ There is a huge demand for this product,” says Schwartzer.
With an investment from Boaz Chalamish (former senior vice president of Mercury Interactive, acquired by H-P in 2006), the partners put together a product that combines two unique made-in-Israel tools: AclarTech’s proprietary algorithm and Consumer Physics’ SCiO handheld molecular sensor.
“We put a software layer on top of the SCiO hardware. You could compare it to GPS and Waze; you cannot build Waze without GPS,” explains Schwartzer.
SCiO reveals internal attributes of the fruit, such as sweetness (BRIX) and dry weight. AclaroMeter crunches that data, along with smartphone camera images of external attributes such as color and size, to display a quality and ripeness “grade” for the fruit (or cluster of fruits) instantaneously.
All sampling data, as well as additional statistical information and reports, are available online for post-sampling and post-production analysis.
There’s also an aspect of crowd wisdom and machine learning in AclaroMeter.
“We are not fruit researchers,” says Schwartzer. “We depend on feedback from our customers, agreeing or disagreeing with the grade and adding personal opinions. This educates the algorithm to more precisely determine, for example, what is a premium-quality tomato.”
AclarTech started beta trials with potential customers and rolled it out to paying customers in June.
The business model is pay-per-use, approximately $1 to $5 per sample, depending on the type of fruit.
“We are actually reducing costs for our customers because lab tests on fruit are done by the millions all around the world and they take a lot of time and are very inaccurate because they’re done manually and are not standardized,” says Schwartzer.
He estimates that inaccurate information on when to pick produce leads to a yearly loss of half of all fruits and vegetables grown commercially.
Thus far, AclaroMeters are being used by Israeli heavyweights including Carmel Wines, Tali’s Grapes, the national fruit-quality regulation board, the Ministry of Agriculture and its renowned Volcani Institute for agricultural research.
All this was accomplished within half a year, with a staff totaling four including the cofounders. A seed round is planned for September 2017.
Schwartzer says AclarTech plans to market its AclaroMeter all around the world.
The company also is in the portfolio of TechForGood, an organization that helps scale up Israeli and Southeast Asian startups whose technology has potential for solving social and environmental problems.
“Our vision is to improve the efficiency and quality of fresh agricultural produce along the food chain, from the farmer in the field to the table of the consumer,” says Schwartzer. “Our goal is to be the standard for fruit quality and ripeness.”
[Photo: Israel21c ]