For apple orchardists, post-harvest losses are common and difficult to manage. New Zealand’s apple picking seasons can be short, and for the pickers themselves, who are paid by piece rate, there is a constant tension between apple quality and apple quantity. In this blog we will discuss the main causes of post-harvest losses and how a mechanical harvest machine can provide a quick and easy solution.
A Snapshot of Apple Picking
Apples’ metabolic processes continue long after harvest, meaning that they continue to ripen and deteriorate after being picked. For farmers, who want to deliver fresh crispy apples into the hands of consumers, this deterioration process poses a challenge. Harvest losses and poor quality fruit can have a big impact on your bottom line, so it’s important to retain as much healthy fruit as possible.
The majority of harvest damage can be attributed to rough handling, mechanical injury, water loss, under or over-maturity at the point of harvest, and chilling injury. While some losses are inevitable, the majority of these issues can be avoided, especially around the point of picking.
Bruises that occur from picking and handling often increase during the chilling and storage process, where factors like temperature and compression exacerbate existing injuries, add additional stress and opportunities for decay. That is why decreasing damage during the picking process is one of the most direct paths to a better harvest, as healthy bruise-free fruit is more likely to go the distance.
However, damage during picking becomes inevitable when you have tired pickers. Operating large ladders, carrying and moving heavy picking bags, and straining to reach fruit are all common scenarios where apples become inadvertently damaged.
Despite the best efforts of orchardists to introduce proper training, farm work can be exhausting, which leads to less precision and care being taken. Time constraints and piece rates further motivate pickers to work faster rather than more gently.
Finally, pickers often drop fruit from unacceptable heights into the picking bag, and the picking bags themselves put additional pressure on your fruit, especially in transit. Ideally, handling, dropping and transit processes should be limited and streamlined for the greatest possible harvest.
How Mechanical Harvesting Can Produce Better Apples
Our mechanical harvesting machine, the Technofruit, is built to remove the main causes of harvest damage.
While using the Technofruit, fewer pickers are required and picking conditions are improved. Pickers work from platforms attached to the slow-moving low CO2 vehicle and do need to carry picking bags or undertake heavy lifting, carrying or straining. This alone enables orchardists to retain experienced pickers, including employees over 45 years of age. This in turn can result in a consistent and reliable workforce that takes greater care with your fruit.
The three lateral platforms enable picking at different heights, ensuring high ergonomic standards throughout that reduces back pain and injury.
Pickers place fruit on easily reachable conveyor belts that get rid of the need for heavy picking bags and ladders. This in turn allows pickers to get around the trees quickly and easily.
The Technofruit conveyer belt is not only gentle on backs but gentle on your fruit. The belts are made of a special latex rubber that carefully transports fruit up to the packing boxes and reduces handling damage.
Meanwhile, the ease of depositing fruit on the conveyor belt allows workers to get back to the tree more quickly to pick the next apple. This results in greater, faster harvests, happier pickers and improved profitability.
The Technofruit easily handles row distances from 3 to 3.9 metres and plant heights to up to 3.6 metres. Furthermore, power steering and an excellent turning circle make the Technofruit convenient and safe to use in nearly every orchard, with reduced manual labour across picking, packing and delivery of the fruit to the warehouse for cold storage.
Ready to Improve your Apple Picking Harvest?
Contact Galaxy Group for expert advice regarding any of our mechanical harvesting machines. We will be happy to help you improve your picking operations.