Purpose: This work encompasses the various laboratory-based and portable methods evolved in recent times for sensitive and selective detection of ethylene for fruit-ripening application. The role of ethylene in natural and artificial fruit ripening and the associated health hazards are well known. So there is a growing need for ethylene detection. This paper aims to highlight potential methods developed for ethylene detection by various researchers, including ours. Intense efforts by various researchers have been on since 2014 for societal benefits. Design/methodology/approach: The paper focuses on types of sensors, fabrication methods and signal conditioning circuits for ethylene detection in ppm levels for various applications. The authors have already designed, developed a laboratory-based set-up belonging to the electrochemical and optical methods for detection of ethylene. Findings: The authors have developed a carbon nanotube (CNT)-based chemical sensor whose performance is higher than the reported sensor in terms of material, sensitivity and response, the sensor element being multi-walled carbon nanotube (MWCNT) in comparison to single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT). Also the authors have developed infrared (IR)-based physical sensor for the first time based on the strong IR absorption of ethylene at 10.6 µm. These methods have been compared with literature based on comparable parameters. The review highlights the potential possibilities for development of portable device for field applications. Originality/value: The authors have reported new chemical and physical sensors for ethylene detection and quantification. It is demonstrated that it could be used for fruit-ripening applications A comparison of reported methods and potential opportunities is discussed. © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited.