We are delighted to be starting a project on cherries with our partners Norton Folgate Marketing, CE Murch, Storage Control Systems, TerraPrima Group and International Water Solutions. This project is funded through the Growing Kent and Medway Project (UKRI) and seeks to improve the quality and storage-life of Kent grown cherries through a combination of approaches including reflective mulches, respiratory monitoring to optimise harvest maturity for storage and novel technologies for decontamination in the field and the packhouse.
We are very proud to be working with Storage Control Systems on the development of the P-Pod. This equipment has evolved from the SafePod technology developed to improve long-term low oxygen apple storage.
With its ability to monitor the atmosphere and the respiration of tubers the P-Pod provides an invaluable tool both for carrying out storage trials within research facilities and also to monitor the response of tubers to storage environments within commercial stores. In previous seasons this research programme was carried out as a collaboration between the PQC and our colleagues at Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research (SBCSR). Wtih the closure of Sutton Bridge the work is now being carried out at our Kent facility.
The picture shows a P-Pod in a bulk potato store in the US.
Harvesting, packing and transport of strawberries from the field to packhouse facilities can take hours. Delays before cooling are detrimental for fruit quality and shelf-life, especially when the weather is warm. The PQC are working as part of a consortium to develop a portable chiller that can be used in the field to ensure rapid and efficient cooling of fruit. The consortium is led by JDCooling Ltd, and includes Scorpion Vision Ltd and Berry Gardens Ltd.
This project has been funded through Innovate UK and is now in its third season. An experimental cooling system has been set up at the PQC facilities to allow detailed studies for the optimisation of cooling protocols. This led to the design of an in-field chiller (CoolBerry rig) initially tested for chilling one pallet, and now extended with capacity to chill three pallets. The three pallet version is undergoing the first tests this season.
In addition to the advantages of rapid cooling to improve quality and extend storage life, the CoolBerry rig design allows loading and unloading of whole pallets, which reduces the need for repeated construction and deconstruction of the pallet. This constitutes a very significant saving in labour, which is especially important at this time of Covid-19 and Brexit.
The PQC is working with Ozone Industries Ltd and MAPCAP Ltd to optimise a system for using ozone flushing of retail packs to extend the shelf-life of strawberries. Ozone; O3, is one of the most powerful oxidants on earth, and very effective for destroying micro-organisms (fungi, bacteria and viruses). Ozone is not persistent, as it reverts to oxygen, leaving no residues, thus avoiding the regulatory and other issues posed by conventional post-harvest biocide treatments. Another advantage of using gaseous ozone is that it avoids wetting the fruit which would encourage fungal growth.
In 2020, with funding from Innovate UK a series of pilot studies were carried out using an experimental system which demonstrated that ozone flushing of retail packs could extend the shelf-life of UK strawberries by 1-2 days. The consortium are now applying for funding to develop the technology into a cost-effective commercial system that can be incorporated directly into the packing line. We are also testing the potential of this technology for a range of other commodities, including raspberries, tomatoes and grapes.
We would like to thank Berry Gardens and Berry World for their help with this work.
Reducing plastics and including recycled content whilst limiting food waste
Achieving the Courtauld Commitments
As producers, packagers and retailers look to meet Courtauld commitments by 2025, many existing packaging solutions will no longer be acceptable. This will be particularly challenging for handling of perishable food products for which the response to the packaging environment is critical. There is a need to understand the response of produce to alternative packaging solutions, both those using recycled or compostable plastics or using alternative materials.
Maintaining the quality of apples during long term storage is becoming increasingly important, to allow growers to effectively compete with imported fruit. At the same time, developments such as Dynamic Controlled Atmosphere (DCA) are making it easier than ever to monitor the condition of fresh produce during storage in real time.
María Cárcamo de la Concepción
The worldwide demand for and the consumption of blueberries (Vaccinium species) have significantly increased over the past few years due to advances in fruit quality and, increased awareness of the health and nutritional benefits of eating blueberries. For consumers, blueberry fruit texture, and in particular fruit firmness, are considered, along with flavour, the key quality traits when describing fruit quality. However, blueberries are often subjected to long shipping distances from growing regions to consumer markets, which can have negative consequences for fruit texture and firmness.