Harvest Bins for Citrus: Features to Look For
Early projections for the 2019 orange market in the U.S. predicted a rebound in production compared to the previous year. Nearly 5 million tons of the fruit were forecast to be picked by the end of the season.
All of that tonnage will spend time in a field bin, or a harvest bin (the terms are used interchangeably). Harvest bins are the pallets of the citrus-farming world. They standardize loads and simplify bulk material handling. Most of all, they protect produce as it winds its way from field to packing house.
And like pallets, field bins are available in a striking variety of materials and features. In preparation for next year’s picking season, then, what should citrus farmers look for in a harvest bin? Here are a few things your field bins should have to significantly improve your agricultural operation, resulting in fewer damaged fruits, safer material handling, and a more productive season:
- Go with plastic, not wood. Traditional field bins for citrus were made of wood, a relatively low-cost material. Unfortunately, wood bins are also heavy; prone to breakage and produce-damaging splintering; and vulnerable to mold, mildew, and rot. The new standard material for harvest bins is HDPE plastic, which is tough, resistant to virtually everything, and compliant with USDA guidelines. The smooth surface of a plastic harvest bin protects fruit from bruising, a crucial component of grading and certification tests.
- Choose fork pockets that match your material handling equipment and the aisles between tree rows. The similarity between pallets and today’s harvest bins is no accident; most picking operations use lift trucks to move loaded bins from the field to the truck bed. (In fact, “pallet bin” is another term used more or less interchangeably with “field” and “harvest bin” in citrus farming. Consider forklift travel paths in the fields. Do they have clearance to access all four sides of a loaded bin? If not, choose bins that offer four-way fork pockets, which provide access to lift forks from any direction.
- Ask for vented walls. Ventilation keeps fruit cool in the field, slowing the decay process that begins the instant produce is cut off from the tree’s nutrient flow. But ventilated harvest bins can also save considerable time at the packing house. With adequately ventilated bins, packers can drench fruit with fungicide or fumigate with ethylene without an added dump.
- Plan for documentation. Some bins offer integrated card slots for tagging, as required by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for state certification. Others provide nested RFID chips, which carry similar data for digital and IIoT systems.
Solus Group carries a comprehensive line of plastic harvest bins with all the features described above, and more. We also offer bin-handling equipment, such as the revolutionary line of Simpro Bin Dumpers, for safer, more efficient emptying at the packing house and beyond.
To learn more, or to discuss your own requirements, call Solus Group at 314-696-0200.
“Citrus: Easy Step Harvesting Procedure.” FDACS. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Oct. 2012. PDF. 16 Sept. 2019.
“Citrus: World Markets and Trade.” USDA. United States Department of Agriculture, Jul. 2019. PDF. 16 Sept. 2019.