Once harvested, fruit must be placed in the shade as soon as possible before transporting to the storage complex in a manner that avoids deterioration or damage to the fruit and is cost effective. The hotter the fruit the greater the cooling requirement, using electricity, which not only increases costs but also the carbon footprint – both key considerations in the current market.
Identify the key factors that will influence the efficient movement of bins from orchard to the storage complex.
- Assess the potential number of bins that will be picked in each working day.
- Will picking trains be used?
- Identify the distance from orchard to storage complex.
- It is important that fruit is moved from the orchard without delay to avoid detrimental effect on storage/shelf life.
- Identify equipment that is available to make this process more efficient.
Distances and location
Identify the distances from each orchard to the storage complex.
- Categorise the orchards into distance groups.
- Up to ¼ mile (400 metres).
- Between ¼ mile and ½ mile (400-800 metres).
- Greater than ½ mile (800 metres).
Roads and access
Assess the suitability of roads and access to orchards.
- Can hard roadways, either concrete or tarmac be utilised?
- What is the surface of internal pathways around orchards on which fruit will be transported?
- Will picking trains be used, if so will a full train go back to the main storage complex or be unloaded on the side of the orchard?
- Is there suitable access for forklifts, bin transporters or lorries?
- Is there hard standing for a collection point for loading lorries?
- Lorries need an area of at least 48 feet x 60 feet (16m x 20m).
Identify the right equipment for your situation. It will differ from farm to farm.
- If all the orchards (or over 80%) on the farm are within ¼ mile of the pack-house/ storage complex, then picking trains can take a full load back to the storage complex and be unloaded and re-loaded with empty bins. If a train has 6 bins this is equivalent to 3 trips of a tractor-mounted rear end forklift and is less damaging during movement.
- Where at least half the orchards are between ¼ and ½ mile (400-800 metres) from the pack-house/storage complex it may not be feasible for a picking train to be unloaded and to return to the orchard without loss of picking time. It may be easier to unload at the orchard and then transport the bins to the storage complex separately. A good system is to use a tractor-mounted forklift and a trailer capable of carrying up to eight bins.
- Where the system described above is used, the fruit will be carried to the headland by the train and unloaded into stacks of bins ready for loading onto a trailer.
- If picking trains are not used, then a tractor with a rear-mounted forklift is the best way to get the bins out of the alleys and placed in rows on the outside of the orchards for transport back to the storage complex.
- If all the orchards are greater than ½ mile (800 metres) from the packhouse/storage complex transport systems become more complex. In such situations, it is more convenient to transport the fruit on purpose-built bin/pallet transporters or lorries.
- Self-loading bin transporters are quick and efficient. Their delivery rate over short and medium distances may make bin stacking in the orchard unnecessary.
Increase in fruit temperature once picked
It is important to avoid the build-up of temperature in the bins once fruit has been picked.
- Ensure fruit does not stay in the orchard for longer than absolutely necessary.
- Covering bins with insulated and/or reflective white bin covers will give measurable benefits on early varieties, particularly Discovery.
Shaded area for holding fruit once picked
Placing bins in a shaded area will alleviate temperature build up.
- Placing bins in the shade will help to reduce temperature build-up in the bins.
- Temperatures can rise by several degrees in the centre of the bin.
- The adverse effects of the temperature increase on storage life can be significant.
Fruit transferred to store within two hours of picking
The effect on storage life is dramatic if field heat is not removed quickly.
- Temperature build-up will effect storage duration.
- The effects of temperature on the marketable quality of apples are considerable.
Safety measures must be observed during loading to avoid risks to operators.
- When transporting fruit by tractor-mounted carriers, forklifts, trailers or transporters, safe working rules and practices must be observed.
- Ignoring these rules could lead to injury or death to the operator or other people working nearby.
- Always make sure that tractors and other equipment is in safe working order before use (forks, chains, hydraulic hoses and couplings etc.).
- Operators should fully understand what each control is for.
- Controls should be clearly marked to avoid misunderstanding or misuse.
- All safety equipment required for legal compliance should be in place and fit for purpose e.g. guards etc.
- Maximum carrying capacity should not be exceeded.
- Always drive carefully, bearing in mind the load being carried, ground conditions and the state of any roads.
- Do not stop or start suddenly or corner at speed.
- When carrying bins or pallets of boxes ensure vision is not impaired.
- When reversing with loaded trailers or transporters, ensure there are no obstacles or people in the way before moving off.
- Take extra care in orchards where fruit is being picked.
- Slow down when leaving orchards or when joining roadways, your vision may be restricted.
- Look out for overhead obstructions.
- When the tractor is travelling unloaded ensure that the forks are in the safe ‘transport’ position or kept at 8 inches (20 cm) above the ground.
- Carry bins/pallets as near to the ground as possible on tractor carriers. Forks should be tilted slightly so that bins or boxes are carried against the lift frame. Do not move a load that is higher than the backrest of the forklift.
- Do not carry extra people on tractors or trailers.
- Use flashing lights when travelling on public roads.
Shared transport to storage facility
Considerable benefits, in quality and cost efficiency can be gained from co-operation with others in transportation to a central storage facility.
- Sharing transport with a neighbour may enable fruit to be moved quickly, reducing unnecessary delays in the transfer from orchard to store.
- Savings in cost as well as quality benefits can be gained.
Use lorries with air cushion suspension
To avoid unnecessary bruising in transit lorries with air cushion suspension should be used wherever possible.
- When fruit is transferred by any system, it is at risk from bruise/damage.
- Transferring fruit on a lorry can contribute towards unnecessary bruising if best practice is not observed.
- Whenever possible use lorries with air cushion suspension, particularly for longer distances. Generally today most haulage firms will operate lorries with air cushion suspension.
- However, some smaller operators may still have lorries with conventional spring suspension. This may be perfectly satisfactory for short distances, if driven carefully, but should not be used for longer journeys.
Production areas and dedicated storage facilities
The location of storage facilities in relation to the production area can have a significant influence on long-term storage potential.
- The optimum location for a store would be close enough to the orchards to allow all fruit to be loaded in a store within 2 hours of being harvested.
- In most cases this may not be practical, and, in order to utilise high specification storage, longer distances may be required.
- In order to ensure fruit has sufficient shelf life when the store is opened, it will be necessary to balance the factors involved.
- If high specification storage is available, with rapid temperature pull-down capabilities and the facility to achieve CA conditions with flushing, but 4 hours distant, it will still be better than storage close at hand with poor pull-down and slow establishment of CA conditions.
Transport to central storage facility
A co-ordinated approach to transport arrangements to central storage facilities is vital if the benefits in fruit quality from the correct growing and harvesting of fruits are to be maintained.
- Where fruit is destined for a central storage complex, co-ordination of transport is vital.
- Transport arrangements should be part of central site planning, ensuring pickups are planned and at regular intervals to avoid unnecessary bottle-necks occurring.
- The optimum should be to remove fruit from the orchard and deliver to the storage complex within 2 hours i.e. three pick-ups a day.