Development of a New Harvest Container for Wild Blueberries

in HortTechnology
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  • 1 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre, 32 Main St., Kentville, N.S., B4N 1J5, Canada.
  • | 2 Nova Scotia Agricultural College, Department of Environmental Sciences, P.O. Box 550, Truro, N.S., B2N 5E3, Canada.
  • | 3 PEI Food Technology Centre, 101 Belvedere Ave., P.O. Box 2000, Charlottetown, PE., C1A 7N8, Canada.

Increasing the size of containers used to transport wild lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) fruit from the field to the processing facility has the potential to increase handling efficiency. Currently the wild blueberry industry uses a standard 18-inch-long × 15-inch-wide × 5-inch-deep plastic container that holds about 20 lb of fruit. This study examined the development of a new, pallet-sized high-capacity blueberry container and determined its effects on fruit quality following harvesting, transport, and processing. Laboratory studies on the effects of packing depth of berries on fruit quality demonstrated that container depths of 14.2 inches were damaging to fruit 24 hours following harvest, transport, and holding under ambient conditions, while depths of 7.1 inches were not. In commercial trials with larger pallet-sized prototype containers, fruit depths of up to 10 inches were not damaging to fruit under otherwise typical commercial handling conditions. Dumping fruit from the 10-inch-deep pallet-sized containers onto conveyer belts at the processing facility caused minimal damage to the fruit. In addition, fruit crushing that occurred in the large pallet-sized containers was similar to that occurring in the standard 20-lb plastic containers currently used by the industry. Results of these studies indicate that large pallet-size blueberry containers with a depth of 10 inches could be used without causing significant damage to fresh fruit during harvest, transport, and processing. Thus as a whole, the adoption of this type of container would improve handling efficiency and potentially the quality of the fruit.

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