Living Lab #5: Ugly food identification

Ugly food identification

It is estimated that one third of the EU's total agricultural production is lost as "ugly" food, although of perfectly good quality. To avoid this waste, ugly food needs to be identified early, its quality needs to be guaranteed and its shelf life needs to be assessed.

This Living Lab is focused on the production stage of industrial sectors such as Tropical Crops (avocado) and Horticulture (tomato and cucumber), aiming to develop a Living Lab environment that will enable the grading of vegetables and fruits at an early stage, using non-destructive and multi-attribute analysis techniques, applied to a single fruit/vegetable or a whole lot.

The problem is late identification of ugly food

The current state-of-the-art regarding the processing of "ugly food" could be described as late selection of food that is often done manually or with outdated technology, creating a huge food loss problem. 
Two major obstacles have been identified when it comes to growing vegetables for the retail industry: 
  • Identification of ‘ugly food’ or non-compliance to retail requirements at a late stage reduces the possibilities for alternative valorisation.
  • Marketing and logistics decisions towards reducing FLW are difficult, as reliable information on food shelf-life losses and alternative opportunities are missing.

Did you know?

  • An estimated one third of the EU's total agricultural production is lost as "ugly" food, although of perfectly good quality. 

Recovery strategies with an impact

The aim of the Andalusian Living Lab is to identify, guarantee the quality and assess the shelf life of food so that the recovery strategies of retailers for food considered "ugly" have a real impact on consumers.
The Andalusian Living Lab will assess compliance with retail requirements for fruit and vegetables, at an early stage, by means of non-destructive analysis. In this way, it aims to reduce food waste at producer and retailer level.
In brief, the main goals of this Living Lab are:
  • To improve value chains’ optimization and transparency by means of non-destructive analysis and multi-attribute classification techniques. 
  • Study and improve the recovery practices for FLW. 
  • To improve storage and logistics management.  
  • To increase forecasting and sharing information regarding the studied value chains. 
  • Further collaboration efforts within the supply chain involving producer, retailer and consumer. 
  • To determine potential technological solutions and further developments to be implemented. 

It is the ambition of this Living Lab to reduce the FLW in two steps of the production chain:

Life cycle stage:

Life cycle stage SILL FLW reduction total objective:



Wholesale and Retail


Table 1: FLW redeuction in two steps of the production chain


FCTA (multisectoral innovation cluster) is the leader of this Living Lab, IFAPA is involved as research and transfer centre, GRUPO LA CAÑA as host demonstrator and MULTISCAN as technology developer specialised on spectroscopy.
Expected outcome 
The technology being tested within this Living Lab allows “ugly food” selection to be performed at a very early stage and in an efficient manner. The main innovation is the combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and real-time data processing techniques with further hardware development which would facilitate non-destructive sensors deployment at industrial environments.
The final products/services will be:
  • Multi-sensor platform with capacity of analysing and processing around 300,000 fruits / hour and with the possibility of classification in three different outputs based on quality, shelf-life parameters and organic/inorganic origin. 
  • Data service platform to control input produce.
This technology would enable producers and other actors of the production chain to save a lot of energy, money and other resources. 
The producer will be able to avoid discarding food, also optimising logistical aspects of storage as it would be possible to manage batches of products with the same shelf life.
On the retail side, it would be possible to buy products with a known shelf life, providing better offers to the consumer and better logistics/storage management.
It will also seek to guarantee quality products with a known shelf-life for the retailer, providing market strategies for 'imperfect' fruit and vegetables and optimising logistics management.


Jose Luis Gallego Álvarez


Find us

Visit ZeroW systemic innovation living labs

Living Labs


#1 FLW monitoring and assesment

#2 Innovative sustainable and smart packaging

#3 Wasteless greenhouse solutions

Mobile food

#4 Mobile food valorisation as a service

Ugly food

#5 Ugly food identification

#6 Datadriven production process control

#7 Food bank network

#8 FLW valorisation through algae production

#9 Informing and nudging consumers

Latest news from ZeroW