The Recovery Play: What to do when nature doesn’t play ball?

Posted by Andrew McQueen on May 19, 2016 12:49:02 AM

.The Recovery Play: What to do when nature doesn't play ball?

Growing the perfect piece of fruit takes years of effort. Selecting the correct plot of land, choosing the right cultivar and carefully nurturing the plant through the early years. In the months before harvest there is hard work pruning, fertilising, spraying and giving the fruit the best chance of being in perfect condition when it comes time to harvest.

The sticker on a piece of fruit is part of your brand promise - the eating experience will meet consumer expectations and keep them coming back for more.  But how can you guarantee the taste of the fruit?

If it doesn’t rain, you can irrigate.  If a frost threatens, you have a variety of options to protect your crop.  But what if the sun does not shine?

That is exactly what has happened in New Zealand this year. Te Puke is known as the ‘Kiwifruit capital of the world’ and production per hectare is extremely high due to its combination of fertile soils and favourable climate. However, in the 2015-16 growing season there were 200 less hours of sunlight compared to historical levels.  Crop volume was still high but there were concerns some fruit would not ripen to meet requirements.

Zespri is the largest marketer of kiwifruit in the world and has high standards.  Every aspect of the growing, harvesting, packing and shipping process is carefully managed to ensure that the eating experience is consistently high to fulfil their brand promise.  Taste is a key criteria and if fruit does not meet the required Zespri standard, it will not ship.

Meeting this standard is a priority for EastPack, the largest packer of kiwifruit in New Zealand.  EastPack don’t just want to be the biggest – they want to be the best.  As a grower-owned organisation they are committed to delivering high returns and they do this through a strong investment in technology, efficiency and raising performance across all their sites.

Through their pre-harvest sampling they knew some lots would struggle to meet Zespri’s fruit standard.  Due to their long relationship with Compac, EastPack reached out for help.  They wanted Inspectra technology to segregate their crops so fruit not meeting the Zespri standard was removed.

“The Inspectra team has been brilliant through this process and they reacted incredibly fast. Despite the tight timeframe they had us operational before the season started and worked with our pack house staff to successfully integrate this new technology into our workflow” EastPack CEO Hamish Simson.

Compac was born out of the kiwifruit industry and the Inspectra technology has been commercially sorting kiwifruit for internal properties longer than anyone else in the world.  Outside of New Zealand, Inspectra heads are used to sort kiwifruit in North America, South America, Asia and Europe.

Inspectra is powerful technology and by measuring the interaction of light with the flesh of the fruit much can be learned.  The sugar level can be detected to make sure it is not too high or too low.  Dry Matter is checked to determine the final eating quality of the fruit .  The internal colour of gold kiwifruit is used to sort out the green fruit.  This technology can even detect the soft fruit without even touching the produce. Inspectra

For the last 2 years Compac has been working with Plant and Food Research to use Inspectra to predict storage life – a crucial breakthrough to maximise profit by only storing the fruit that will last.

Kiwifruit is just one area where Inspectra has a proven track record.  Since the 1990s we have been non-destructively scanning fruit based on internal properties.  Some examples are:

  • Citrus - sweet fruit is put in a High Brix box and sold at a premium
  • Apple - internal defects are sorted out before the fruit is packed to ensure the bad fruit does not leave the building 
  • Avocado - sorted based on maturity so they reach the consumer when they are ready to eat (Case study)

There are many other produce types where Inspectra can add value.  To find out more about Inspectra and sorting for internal properties please contact us.

Kiwifruit customer: EastPackEaspack_video.png

EastPack are the largest post-harvest operator in New Zealand and maintain the largest kiwifruit packing facility in the Southern Hemisphere. They're committed to lean production, continuous improvement and the highest grower returns possible. Partnering with Compac has allowed them to improve their operation with increased efficiency and new technology. They're excited about the future and how they can grow and leverage their Compac technology to improve their post-harvest operations.

Andrew McQueen

Written by Andrew McQueen

Product Manager: Inspection Systems

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