While there will always be some degree of product wastage following fruit picking seasons, those producers that are consistently successful are the ones that can minimise damage and maximise yield, ensuring that the product arrives at its destination in the right condition.
Selecting the correct fruit picking crates will make a significant difference to maintaining the integrity of the fruit quality from harvest and beyond.
Maintaining integrity at every stage
From the moment the seeds are first sowed in the ground, to the moment the fruit product is placed on the supermarket shelf, due thought and care needs to be given to each different process.
Fruit contains an average of 65 to 95 per cent water. During cultivation these levels are artificially controlled to manage the rate of ripening, as a reduction in the water levels expedites the decaying process. Careless handling when picking can cause internal bruising and splitting, which also leads to water loss.
Fruit picking crates to encourage respiration
Respiration is a natural process in a fruit that prolongs its life cycle. The more the fruit can continue to ‘breathe’, the longer your product remains in a good condition. During respiration, glucose is transformed into carbon dioxide and water using oxygen. Once all the glucose in a plant has been used, the fruit can no longer produce any energy, and is therefore no longer sustainable. It starts to decline and decay.
Selecting the correct size of fruit picking crate is essential to encourage the perfect conditions for respiration.
- Good air supply
Poor ventilation restricts the air supply that can reach the fruit after it has been picked. If the fruit is too tightly packed, or in the wrong type of container, then the air supply is not distributed evenly across the harvest. As a result, fermentation sets in, which leads to premature decaying of the fruit. Equally, lack of ventilation will create an accumulation of carbon dioxide, which also contributes to the decaying process.
- Moist atmosphere
Once a product has been harvested it starts to lose water, which leads to shrinkage and loss of weight. The rate of loss is affected by the water vapour pressure inside the product, and the moisture in the air. It is therefore important that the fruit picking crates are stored in a cold, moist environment.
- Consistent stable temperature
A high temperature will expedite the respiration process and hasten the decay. If the temperature is particularly high, then the enzymes in the fruit break down and respiration ceases. The storage temperature depends on the individual product, but as a temporary measure during the supply chain, the cooler the better.
The effect on fruit of unsuitable containers
During harvesting it is essential to choose the right fruit picking crates to avoid damaging the fruit, both during the harvesting period, and during transportation.
A fruit picking basket with handles is best for the picking process. The less the product is handled the less opportunity for damage to occur. Too much handling can damage the surface of the fruit, which creates entry points for mould and bacteria.
Material: robust, durable plastic fruit picking crates are more suitable than wooden crates that can split, splinter, have sharp edges or protruding nails that can damage the fruit as it is picked. Plastic crates are smooth on the inside and have a perforated design to allow for the movement of air and moisture.
Size and stack ability: Fruit should not be piled high in deep containers. Instead, select a picking crate that is suitable for the size and volume of the produce, do not overfill, and stack leaving space for ventilation. Once stacked, the load should be sturdy and solid, able to withstand the movement of transportation without tipping over and spilling its contents.
Cleaning & hygiene: when used year after year, contamination can affect containers. Your fruit picking crates need to have a clean, smooth, washable structure which can be thoroughly cleaned at the end of every harvest to eliminate contamination the following year.
Protection during transport:The fruit picking crates are instrumental in protecting during transportation. Damage can occur when the product is being loaded into trucks, during the journey, as a result of the vibration of the road, poor ventilation and temperature control due to poor stacking patterns that block the flow of air.
While you cannot always mitigate against human error or external threats such as breakdowns, ensuring that the fruit is packed as sympathetically as possible will contribute to minimising overall losses and maximising profit yield on each harvest.
A range to suit every fruit
Here at INKA, we have a large range of robust fruit picking trays and harvest boxes suitable for the various types of fresh produce grown in the UK. From our market leading strawberry & raspberry crates to our deeper stack and nest totes used for salads and cress. Contact one of our experts for more details.