Labelling issue all wrapped up
Kiwifruit and leaky buildings seem to have little in common but post-harvest company Apata Group has turned to the building industry for an innovative solution to a problem with labelling gold kiwifruit.
“The skin of SunGold kiwifruit becomes damp when it is removed from controlled atmosphere storage and the brand labels just wouldn't stick,” says Damian Young, Apata's operations general manager.
SunGold is held at around one degree in CA stores and when the fruit is taken to the packhouse for grading, labelling and packing, its exposure to the outside air temperature causes the fruit's surface to become damp.
“We had to find an answer as Zespri requires that 100 per cent of export fruit carries its brand label.”
Last year, fellow Bay of Plenty post-harvest company EastPack experimented with using a different kind of plastic to create a sticker-friendly microclimate.
Seeing leaky buildings covered in white plastic wrap was the inspiration Damian needed to come up with a potential solution for a much larger, commercial-scale trial in partnership with Zespri.
Apata contacted Charlie Baxter of A 1 Wrap Ltd, Tauranga to see if it was possible to enclose the bin tip and grading tables in the Apata Kaimai packhouse to create a new “controlled atmosphere” area in which to handle the fruit.
Zespri commissioned two other companies, Drying Solutions from Tauranga and Air Solutions from Auckland, to set up systems to dehumidify and then heat the air in the newly enclosed area.
“This means the fruit is graded in a dry, warm atmosphere, which stops the skin getting wet and as a result we've been able to achieve 100 per cent labelling on all the fruit.”
Finding a solution to the labelling problem is a significant breakthrough for the entire kiwifruit post-harvest industry because the volumes of SunGold held in CA storage in future seasons are set to increase significantly.
“This season Apata put 76,000 trays of SunGold in CA storage and the fruit has held up really well.”
While much of the crop is graded, labelled and packed for export as it is harvested, some is put into CA storage in large picking bins so it can go through the pack house at a later date. CA storage is different from cool storage as the atmospheric levels are artificially controlled and temperature reduced to allow longer storage while maintaining fruit quality.
Putting fruit in bulk storage in CA stores spreads out the packing season as well as preserves fruit quality and Damian says other post-harvest companies are closely watching the Apata trial designed to overcome labelling issues.
“We're pretty happy with the results and will refine the whole process before next season.”
Charlie Baxter of A 1 Wrap says the project was challenging for the company's team and required long hours of work at relatively short notice to complete.
“Synergies between Apata and A 1 Wrap are among the reasons the project went so well. We each had the same focus and objectives and worked closely together.
The company has installed barriers inside buildings before but never with requirements for atmospheric control or in and around machinery and grading tables as in the Apata pack house case.