Laser-Based Nopal De-Spining
Revolutionizing nopal processing with precision laser technology. Our innovative solution addresses the biggest bottleneck in the cactus supply chain.
The nopal cactus has been recognized for its nutritional content and adaptability to various environmental conditions, making it an asset in sustainable agricultural practices. A sustainability superhero, declared by the United Nations as a food of the future, cactuses are drought resistant, can improve soil health and grow fast in many types of soils and extreme climate conditions.
The cactus has a problem, and it's its thorns. They are difficult to remove, making its handling and processing very challenging, and they must be taken off before human or animal consumption. The current de-spining methods are inefficient, labor-intensive, and often harm the cactus pads, affecting their quality and shelf life. This explains why de-spining is considered the biggest bottleneck in the cactus supply chain.
Onteko’s technology addresses the despining issues by using a laser to selectively remove spines without causing damage to the cactus pads.
Furthermore, Onteko is developing the integration of of a deep learning based computer vision model technologies to enhance the accuracy of spine detection and guide the laser, increasing the efficiency and scalability of the process.
Preservation the integrity of the cactus pads.
Efficient de-spining of the cactus, reducing the loss of usable volume from 20 % to zero.
Extension of the product's shelf life to several weeks, enabling the creation of functional supply chains.
Facilitating safe handling during harvesting, transportation, and consumption.
How it Works?
We are using a fiber laser, much more robust, compact and reliable than traditional lasers. To optimize the de-spining process, we are using a set of specific laser parameters such as wavelength, pulse energy, pulse duration, pulse shape and repetition rate to achieve the optimal removing rate and quality.
For spine detection, are developing deep learning based machine vision algorithms.
This will allow us to directly target the spine without the need for a laser scan of the
entire surface, resulting in a drastic Increase in productivity.
Our design focuses on creating a system that's not just efficient, but also scalable. We envision our technology being easily adopted across various scales of operation, from local farms to expansive agri-businesses.
Question: Why is the nopal cactus an important food?
Answer: The nopal cactus has been recognized for its nutritional content and adaptability to various environmental conditions, making it an asset in sustainable agricultural practices. A sustainability superhero, declared by the United Nations as a food of the future, cactuses are drought-resistant, can improve soil health, and because they reach maturity, can be harvested faster than many other crops.
Why is manually de-spining the nopal problematic?
Answer: The current de-spining methods are inefficient, labor-intensive, and often harm the
cactus pads, affecting their quality and shelf life. It is estimated that during the current de-spining
process, more than 20% of the products usable volume is lost. What's even worse is that part of
the skin is removed, which causes irreversible damage that leads to the degradation of the
product within just a few hours. This explains why de-spining is considered the biggest
bottleneck in the cactus supply chain.
What advantage does de-spining with a laser have?
Answer: The laser removes spines without causing damage to the cactus pads. The laser works
on the principle of selective absorption, where the spines and the cactus pads have different
optical properties. This selective targeting ensures the spines are vaporized without affecting the
rest of the plant. Investigations indicate that the technology is promising in terms of maintaining
the integrity of the cactus pads and extending their shelf life.
Can de-spining with a laser affect the product for human consumption?
Answer: No. The laser produces light, which, due to its spectral composition, is similar to sunlight. It's not ionizing radiation. It can't make modifications that affect the quality of the product as food.
Is it dangerous to use the laser?
Answer: Not if the protective measures according to the instruction manual are followed. Specifically, protective goggles are required.
Is it profitable to use a laser for de-spining?
Answer: De-spining with a laser directly in the field, during harvest, will establish a distribution
chain without the risks and problems caused by spines. It will facilitate the preservation of the
product long enough to reach its destination without spines. Ultimately, it will make exporting
easier and will add value to your product.
Where can I buy it?
Answer: The product is being developed by Onteko and will be released in 2024. If you are
interested, we recommend making any inquiries in the contact section.
References and useful Links
2. "Real-time monitoring of de-spining process in Opunctia Nopalea by using a PILA technique”, M. Arronte, E. Ortega, L. Ponce, E. de Posada, E. Rodriguez, T. Flores, Electronic Journal Technical Acoustics, 1, 2010.
3. “Removal of Opuntia spines by pulsed laser ablation: bromatological and microbiological analysis”, L. Ponce, T. Flores, A. Peña, R. Espinosa, D. Perez, E. de Posada, M. Arronte, Journal of Food Engineering, 169, pp. 38-43, 2016.
4. “Characterization of laser-treated Opuntia using FT-IR spectroscopy and thermal analysis”, K. D. Mejías, T. Flores, L. Ponce, M. Domínguez, M. Arronte and E. de Posada, Applied Physics A: Materials Science & Processing, 112, pp. 221-224, 2013.
5. “Free-running and Q:Switched LIBS Measurements During the Laser Ablation of Prickle Pears Spines”, T. Flores, L. Ponce, M. Arronte, E. de Posada, Optics and Lasers in Engineering, 47 (5) pp. 578-583, 2009.