Maria Christodoulou – PhD 2016

The shape of original sin

Captured images of Royal Gala, Granny Smith, Egremont Russet
Captured images of Royal Gala, Granny Smith, Egremont Russet

I have just started the second year of my PhD research using computer vision for non-destructive, quick and cost-effective tools to check the authenticity of cultivated apple varieties. My project is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council in association with Sainsbury’s and co-supervised by Nick Battey, Alastair Culham and Theresa Huxley (Sainsbury’s).  I aim specifically to develop practical applications within the Sainsbury’s supply chain to benefit a number of fresh produce categories and support Sainsbury’s market leading aspirations.

I have started data collection during which I have captured the images of different apples and extracted various shape characteristics (e.g. the top down shape, the depth of the stalk cavity) from the photos. I will use these to determine which characters will be suitable to distinguish cultivars and to establish the variation between individuals of the same cultivar. I particularly enjoy this part of my project as it allows me to use elements of my first degree in statistics and my masters in plant taxonomy. While my project focuses on the apple, the techniques I am developing will be easily transferable to other fresh products.

Maria with Empire apples at Sainsbury's depot in Basingstoke
Maria with Empire apples at Sainsbury’s depot in Basingstoke

The partnership with Sainsbury’s gives me the opportunity to work closely with Dr Theresa Huxley and the Fresh produce and PQI team at Sainsbury’s Headquarters. This allows me to focus on the practical side of my project and gain insight into Sainsbury’s’ requirements to ensure market leading produce quality. For the same reason I am currently doing a produce quality inspector training course.

Maria admiring a fine clump of wild leeks on the beach at Zahara de Los Atunes
Maria admiring a fine clump of wild leeks on the beach at Zahara de Los Atunes

At Reading I am also involved in demonstrating on the Year 2 field course to southern Spain, where I train the students in the identification of plant families, help them organise sampling strategies and carry out data analysis.

For an update on progress click here.