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English | PRODUCTION | Comentarios: 0
Postharvest of blueberries: still a lot to learn and work on
In the blueberries value chain, all the steps are critical, from the decision to begin harvesting to the arrival in faraway destinations with good fruit quality.
17/11/2016 | Time has passed, but exporter and producers ask themselves the same questions: what technology to apply in the packaging for selection and packing, what gauges are the best or most convenient, which temperatures to work with in the process, etc. We have a lot to learn and to work on. There’s still a long way to go.
When referring to the present and the future of the postharvest, Roberto Varela, Food Engineer from Universidad Nacional de Entre Ríos and private consultant, indicates that it is important to remember that each blueberry is a living organism, and therefore deserves a lot of care. Reaching the state of commodity is easy however a screw is not the same as a blueberry. The screw doesn’t breathe. The blueberry does.

Taking into account that the quality of the blueberry starts in the field and thinking about the future scenario, we have to assess those operations we can manage during the packaging, specifically in the postharvest, so as to interfere the least possible.

Varela states that “the fruit we get each year is not exactly the same, even when it comes from the same plants, and this is due to the fact that nutrition may be different, because we decided to use some product or not, due to climate changes or cultural reasons. All these factors influence the fruit we get each year. The fruit’s behavior varies.”

Varela indicated that knowing everything about the fruit is essential to carry out the postharvest tasks. It is important to have contact with the harvest staff in order to exchange opinions: what we have to harvest, the experience the staff has, what the best harvest techniques are, what has to be harvested first according to packaging. Communication about everything related to the postharvest is important.

“The fruit’s stay in the field; transport to the packaging area; and all the infrastructure matter and we have to be as careful as possible. From the moment we pull the fruit out of the plant we lose everything that could nurture it. The quality achieved in the field now depends on us, and all the subsequent operations must be carried out trying to keep that quality. We have to be careful of the temperature management during the field-packing plant transport, and it is also important to avoid hits”, adds Varela.

The professional states that in the instance between packaging and transportation to the market, there is invariably a point where we lose the fruit handling. Even though today there are better communication channels, there is no adequate information on time and there’s no certainty that the fruit is well managed. “We can’t forget that the fruit we have today is not going to be the same tomorrow.”

When the product reaches the packing house, the most important thing is lowering the temperature,removing the heat from the field taking it to 20°C first and then keeping lowering it until reaching 4°C. Temperature management is a key issue during packing, cooling before it goes out and the maintenance throughout the commercialization chain. Another essential matter is the removal of material that doesn’t correspond and the postharvest treatment with methyl bromide.

Fruit selection is manual in most packing processes. This does not cover all the selection expectations.

There are attributes we cannot be determined with the human eye. We need to touch the fruit, and that increases the respiratory rate of the product which, as it is not in the plant, consumes its own reserves. Both in the manual and in the mechanized packing processes, there are very large leaps on the belt which submit the fruit to an inadequate treatment. The new technologies will enable to improve this, which is a decisive point in the quality of the products.

One issue that goes through the postharvest task is regulations, quality controls set forth in different types of companies that comply with one or various standards. This makes the information managed in the field, in the packing process and in the market to flow at a different pace and with a different sense.

Information has to flow so that everybody knows what is going on. Many times, we don’t have the adequate feedback. “We are delivering a lot of information”, states Roberto Varela: from which field the fruit comes from, georeferencing, who harvested it, transported it, packed it, sold it and brought it. But we don’t get the feedback we need in order to have adequate management. If we only receive incorrect news, this tends to discourage work teams. We need to learn about the good and the bad. The globalization of information within the value chain is very important and it is crucial that said information remains in what we call the company memory. Today we need that memory to be on paper, in the computer, so that future generations can know what happened at that time.

The future of the post-harvest

Individual treatment of the fruit is surely what’s coming. The basic gauges we are using separate ones from others by size. New gauges will treat fruit individually, they will make a hyperspectral analysis, they will work on close infrared. All that will tell us things we can’t see with our eyes and our hands, like for example the inside of the fruit, which in the close future will be available. Fruits will be valued more for their color, their composition and their flavor. Therefore, that is a job where we have little to do in the harvest, and a lot to maintain. The market will be more sophisticated, and will want to know more about things such as the acidity of the fruit, how many seeds it has, and everything will be more complex.

“The interest companies may have about consumer knowledge is clear. Trading companies generate certain standards, but the truth is we have 8, 9 or 10 standards, and each company that comes to purchase arrives with its own standard, and from the administrative point of view, that is very difficult to comply with. A comprehensive standard should be agreed on, so as to reduce costs, taking into account that the final goal of all of them is exactly the same, informing the consumer”, he concludes.
(Fuente: ABC)

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