PhD Project Title: Use of laser backscattering imaging for quality detection in kiwifruit
Kiwifruit is a major export crop for New Zealand, contributing to approx. 1.7 billion export earnings per annum. Delivering high quality product is a key to maintaining the image of NZ's exported fruit. Therefore, the industry has a strong interest in adapting techniques that can help with screening and grading of superior quality product at the packhouses before export. For kiwifruit, firmness prediction using non-destructive methods is challenging as there is no apparent correlation between firmness and other easily measurable quality attributes such as colour and sugar content. Although limited success in firmness prediction has been found using near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy, this method is to date, primarily used for estimating sugar content of the fruit. It remains challenging to adopt NIR at industry level beyond this parameter. Laser backscattering imaging (LBI) analyses the properties of single scattered beams after interacting with the fruit using image analysis in the visible and NIR region of the light spectrum. This non-destructive technique has been used to provide information on internal quality of fresh produce particularly relating to textural properties (e.g. firmness). Hence there may be potential for applying LBI to the non-destructive assessment of firmness of kiwifruit, to provide instant estimation and forecasting of future quality, as well as enable longitudinal monitoring during fruit development/ripening. Development of a robust calibration model is essential for ensuring good accuracy in predictions. Other opportunities include non-destructive identification of kiwifruit internal defects such as chilling–induced storage breakdown disorders (SBD) and feeding injuries caused by brown marmorated skink bug (BMSB).
With funding and support from Zespri International, the Massey AgriTech Partnership seeks a PhD candidate to provide a thorough investigation of the state of the art of the the laser backscattering imaging technique as applied to inspection and grading of kiwifruit for current and future product quality attributes particularly firmness. This project is to be operated as a joint research collaboration between the Massey AgriTech Partnership and the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy (ATB), Potsdam. ATB brings considerable experience with optical analysis of fresh produce quality whereas Massey University has a long-term partnership with Zespri working on the use of non-destructive technologies to provide solutions for the kiwifruit industry. The successful candidate will join a team of professors, young researchers and PhD students. The role will be primarily based in Massey University's Manawatu campus in Palmerston North, New Zealand. The candidate is also expected to be spending 6 – 8 months in Germany during the 1st year of the PhD.
In order to be eligible for this project, the applicants must:
• Hold an appropriate Master's (B or higher result) or Honours (2nd class div I) degree in a relevant discipline. Relevant disciples are wide ranging include Plant Sciences, Engineering and Physics.
• Be capable of designing and executing large scale laboratory experiments.
• Be capable of collecting and analysing large sets of data.
Other competencies which would be seen favourably by the selection team include:
• Previous experience with the horticulture industry.
• Previous experience living/working in multiple culture environments.
The successful candidate will receive a stipend of $30,000 NZD per year plus tuition fees ($8,500 NZD per year) for a three year period, and travel allowance. The candidate will spend a majority of their time on the Manawatu campus, supervised by Prof. Andrew East, Prof. John Bronlund and Dr. Mo Li. The candidate will also spend a substantial amount of time in ATB, Potsdam, Germany working with Dr. Manuela Zude. The successful candidate is expected to travel internationally for conferences, and to collaborate with international research groups.
Applicants that are currently completing their degree may be considered, with the understanding that the position is to be filled by April 2019. Interested candidates should send their C.V. and a cover letter to Dr. Mo Li (firstname.lastname@example.org). An additional one page essay on how the candidate would suggest tackling the research problem should also be provided. Application deadline is 22 February, 2019.