Harvest Produce-Handling Equipment for Commercial Growers of Fruits and Vegetables

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By Jennifer Taylor December 11, 2017

At harvest, commercial growers of fruits and vegetables have two major goals, both of which hinge on quality produce handling equipment: They must prevent any contamination or degradation of the product, and they must quickly move bulk field containers to the packing house.

These goals depend on reliable material handling equipment — in particular, the trio that moves your harvest from the field to the packing house as efficiently and safely as possible: pallet bins, tractors, and the Forward Bin Tipper forklift attachment from Solus Group. Here are a few material handling tips for the harvest that can limit product loss at this crucial stage of the supply chain:  

1. Plan traffic patterns from field to packing house before planting begins.

In order to move the harvest efficiently and with a minimum of damage, harvest-time traffic patterns should be part of a farm's layout from the beginning. This will prevent delays and further exposure to outdoor temperatures while also ensuring that tractors don't have to drive over rough ground; even at low speeds, bumps in the road can jostle fruits and vegetables, potentially bruising or otherwise damaging the product.

2. Choose bulk harvest bins with integrated fork pockets.

Plastic pallet bins with smooth walls, the potential for padded liners, and adequate ventilation are ideal for most fruits and vegetables. Harvest bins with integrated fork pockets allow farmers to use tractors with forklift attachments to handle bulk crop loads, which in turn gets more of the product to the packing house more efficiently.

3. Minimize touches during transportation.

The fewer times workers must handle produce, the less chance there is to inadvertently cause mechanical damage. Ideally, harvest staff should gently place produce into a centralized pallet bin, complete with soft, rounded edges. Then tractors fitted with forklifts and Forward Bin Tipper attachments can securely lift the fully loaded bins.

The Forward Bin Tipper grasps containers securely, but with a gentle touch that won't wear away edges. Upon arrival at the packing house, this lift fork attachment allows operators to empty produce into shipping bins, hydro-cooling tanks, or packaging surfaces — without the need for further manual handling along the way.    

Harvest Produce-Handling Equipment for Commercial Growers of Fruits and Vegetables

4. Always conduct the harvest during the coolest part of the day.

This may seem obvious, but it bears repeating. Exposure to the heat of a sunny day can cause wilting and reduced shelf lives for most commercial crops. Harvest first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon to take advantage of cooler temperatures. Store harvest bins in the shade until they're full, and transport them indoors as quickly as possible after that.

5. Empty pallet bins slowly and in a controlled manner.

Reduce bruising by handling bulk containers gently, even when emptying produce into wash tubs or cooling stations. The Forward Bin Tipper offers a smooth, hydraulic-powered tipping action that extends to a full 135 degrees to empty bins completely, and with minimum impact.

The mechanization of harvests allows farmers of all sizes to remain competitive in an oft-times uncertain industry. By streamlining harvest practices, you can reduce spoilage, improve the quality of your product, and ultimately enjoy greater profits and customer loyalty. Depend on Forward Bin Tippers to improve produce handling at your growing operation, no matter what crops you produce. 

References:

Bachman, Janet and Richard Earles. "Postharvest Handling of Fruits and Vegetables." WNC. Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas, Aug. 2000. PDF. 16 Oct. 2017.

Bubl, Chip. "Introduction to Post-Harvest Food Handling." OregonState. Oregon State University, 2007. Web. 16 Oct. 2017.

"Harvesting and field handling." FAO. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2017. 

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