Thursday, July 18, 2024
General Agriculture

7 Procedures to Make Fresh Farm Produce Packages More Effective

Below are the seven (7) procedures to make fresh farm produce packages more effective, they include;

1. Ventilation of Packages

Reduction of moisture loss from the product is a principal requirement of limited permeability packaging materials.

A solution to moisture loss problems from produce appeared with the development and wide distribution of semi permeable plastic films.

Airflow through the ventilation holes allows hot fruit or vegetable to slowly cool and avoid the buildup of heat produced by the commodity in respiration.

Holes are also important in cooling the fruit when the packages are placed in a cold storage, especially with forced air-cooling. Ventilation holes improve the dispersal of ethylene produced.

2. Cushioning Materials

7 Procedures to Make Fresh Farm Produce Packages More Effective

The function of cushioning materials is to fix the commodities inside the packages and prevent them from mixing about in relation to each other and the package itself, when there is a vibration or impact.

Some cushioning materials can also provide packages with additional stacking strength. The cushioning materials used vary with the commodity and may be made of wrapping papers, fibre board (single or double wall), molded paper pulp trays, molded foam polystyrene trays, molded plastic trays, foam plastic sheet, plastic bubble pads, fine shredded wood, plastic film liners or bags.

Throughout the entire handling system, packaging can be both an aid and a hindrance to obtaining maximum storage life and quality. Packages need to be vented yet be sturdy enough to prevent collapse.

If produce is packed for ease of handling, waxed cartons, wooden crates or rigid plastic containers are preferable to bags or open baskets, since bags and baskets provide no protection to the produce when stacked.

Containers should not be filled either too loosely or too tightly for best results. Loose  products may vibrate against others and cause bruising, while over-packing results in compression bruising.

Shredded newspaper is inexpensive and a lightweight filler for shipping container. Ethylene absorber sachets placed into containers with ethylene sensitive produce can  reduce the rate of ripening of fruits, de-greening of vegetables or floral wilting.

3. Handling at Wholesale and Retail Outlet

7 Procedures to Make Fresh Farm Produce Packages More Effective

When handling produce at its destination, the following should be observed;

  • It is important to avoid rough handling,
  • Minimize the number of handling steps, and
  • Maintain the lowest feasible temperature.
  • If produce is to be stored before sale, then wholesale and retail markets need clean, well-insulated storage rooms.
  • It is important to remember not to mix those with different temperature requirements or store ethylene sensitive commodities near ethylene generating commodities.

Stacking of non-uniform containers should be done with care to prevent collapse of weaker packages.

Read Also : Guide on Starting a Watermelon Farm

Before produce is sold to the consumer, the handler may wish to sort for quality, or at least to discard any damaged or decayed produce in order to give the product more market appeal.

If ripeness or maturity is non-uniform, sorting at destination can provide the seller with a higher price for the better quality produce.

If the produce handled is a climacteric fruit crop that was harvested before it was ripe (bananas, tomatoes, avocadoes, mangoes), the handler at destination may want to ripen the produce before it is sold to the public.

Sometimes commodities such as bananas are left at ambient temperatures and allowed to ripen naturally. Covering the bananas with a plastic sheet will help ripening be more uniform throughout the lot

Placing a simple air vent (a pipe or a tube of some sort) into the center of the pile of ripening fruit can help reduce overheating during ripening and increase subsequent shelf life.

The introduction of ethylene gas or ethylene-releasing compounds into a special storage environment (known as a ripening room or cabinet, depending upon size) is a more effective way to ensure uniform ripening.

Temperatures of the display tables or refrigerated supermarket displays should be suited to the commodity on sale. For example, while peppers and tomatoes look pleasing when displayed with lettuce, peppers and tomatoes are chilling sensitive, while lettuce is not.

Misting commodities that can tolerate surface water (lettuce, broccoli, green onions) with cool clean water can help maintain a high relative humidity around the product.

Outdoor marketplaces suffer from a lack of temperature control and high air circulation, which can lead to desiccation of crops, which will be seen as shriveling and wilting. These marketplaces can often benefit by the increased use of shading and protection from prevailing winds.

Finally, the handler at destination can help reduce losses in the future by maintaining good records of the sources of losses suffered at the wholesale or retail level. Identifying whether losses were due to mechanical damage, decay/disease, immaturity or over-ripeness allows the handler to provide better quality feedback to produce suppliers.

4. Unloading

7 Procedures to Make Fresh Farm Produce Packages More Effective

A loading dock can ease the work associated with handling horticultural produce at destination. Containers can be transferred more rapidly and with less bending and lifting.

For large trucks, a loading dock 117 to 122 cm high (46 to 48 inches) functions well, while for small trucks or pickups a height of 66 to 81 cm (26 to 32 inches) is recommended.

A simple set of stairs can be constructed to ease the work of loading and unloading produce. Providing hand-trucks or small carts can also ease the work associated with unloading.

Temporary Storage Temperatures

When produce is held at destination for a short time before marketing, the handler can help maintain quality and reduce losses by storing commodities at their most suitable temperature.

However, if the storage period is seven days or less, relative humidity is maintained between 85 and 95%, and the ethylene level is kept below 1ppm, by ventilating or using a scrubber.

5. Sorting/Repacking

Some produce may require washing, trimming, bunching or sorting at the wholesale or retail market level. The layout of the work station used for handling produce at destination should be organized to minimize non-productive movement.

In the illustration below, a dump table is located next to a sink for washing produce, and the drain board is positioned directly next to the sink.

Once produce has dried, cartons can be packed and placed onto a cart located right next to the repacking table. With this layout, a single operator could easily perform all the handling steps or several handlers could work side by side.

Some produce may have to be repacked by the wholesaler or retailer due to changes in quality or uneven ripening. The tomato sorting table illustrated below has workstations for up to five who select ripes, pinks or breakers and allow the green tomatoes to run off to the end of the line.

Rejects (culls) are placed in pails under the table.

Read Also : Loading Patterns in Fresh Farm Produce Transport Systems to Minimize Overheating

6. Ripening

7 Procedures to Make Fresh Farm Produce Packages More Effective

Ripening is the process by which fruits attain their desirable flavor, color and textural properties.

Climacteric fruits can ripen off the plant once they have reached physiological maturity.

Climacteric fruits include apples, avocado, banana, blueberries, breadfruit, cherimoya, durian, feijoa, fig, guava, kiwifruit, mango, muskmelon, papaya, passion fruit, pears, persimmon, plantain, quince, sapodilla, sapote, soursop, stone fruits(apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums) and tomato.

Some of these fruits if harvested “mature-green”, can be ripened after harvest and short term storage. Pears and bananas are unusual in that they develop the best flavor and texture characteristics when harvested mature-green and ripened off the tree. Avocadoes do not ripen on the tree.

Some climacteric fruits give off large quantities of ethylene during ripening. These include apples, apricots, avocadoes, cantaloupe, kiwifruit, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums and passion fruit.

A small dose of ethylene gas will stimulate other climacteric fruits to begin the ripening process. A few climacteric fruits, such as muskmelons, will not increase in sugar content during ripening, but will soften.

Non-climacteric fruits must ripen on the plant if you want a fully ripe fruit, since once they have been harvested, no further ripening will occur.

Flavour and texture will be of low quality if fruits are picked before fully ripe. Some non-climacteric fruits include berries, cherries, citrus fruits (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, mandarins, tangerines), cucumber, dates, eggplant, grapes, lychee, okra, peas, peppers, pineapple, pomegranates, strawberry, summer squash, tamarillo and watermelon.

Non-climacteric fruits will not respond to attempts to ripen them with ethylene gas. A partially red strawberry, for example, will not develop any more color or sweetness after being picked, and will deteriorate faster if exposed to ethylene.

Watermelons develop most of their sweetness during the week before they reach full maturity, making early harvest very undesirable.

Sometimes ripening commodities before sale at the wholesale or retail level will improve their value. Ripening rooms are often used for tomatoes, citrus fruits and bananas.

The use of diluted ethylene gas mixtures is safer than using pure ethylene which is explosive and flammable at concentrations of 3% or higher.

For tomatoes, technical grade ethylene gas is introduced into the room at a concentration of about 100 ppm for about 48 hours. A small fan can be used to ensure a uniform continuous flow of ethylene into and through the room.

Forced-air ripening is increasingly being used to provide more uniform temperatures and ethylene concentrations throughout the ripening room.

Small-scale wholesalers and retailers can ripen fruits in bins or large cartons by placing a small quantity of ethylene-generating produce such as ripe bananas in with the produce to be ripened.

Cover the bin or carton with a plastic sheet for 24 hours, then remove the plastic cover. A simple way to ripen fruits at home in small amounts is to use a ripening bowl. Fruits that require ripening should be placed into the bowl with a ripe apple or ripe banana (or any other high ethylene- generating product).

Using this method, ripening will take from one to four days. Home ripening is also possible using another, extremely low-tech practice place fruits to be ripened into a paper bag with a ripe piece of fruit, close loosely and check in a few days.

7. Display

This wooden display table is designed to be used for commodities such as cruciferous crops or leafy green vegetables that tolerate cooling with ice. The table can be used in the horizontal position or as a tilted display.

Crushed ice is required for cooling and a catch pail should be provided for melt water. To minimize ice needs, the display tray should be insulated and kept out of the direct sun.

When displaying horticultural crops, single or double layers of produce are most     likely to protect the commodities from compression damage and over-handling by the consumers.

High relative humidity can be maintained during display by misting leafy vegetables and water tolerant crops with clean, cold water. A simple sprinkler device can be constructed by perforating a pipe with tiny holes and connecting it to a hose.

If this display is used outdoors, shade should be provided. Displays and storage areas must be cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis. Trimmings, waste, and bruised product remaining in displays are unsightly and can be sources of decay, odor and ethylene.

In summary, if produce is to be stored, it is important to begin with a high quality product Produce can be stored for both short-term and long-term purposes.

Short-term storage is mainly used to provide flexibility in marketing (e.g. when awaiting transport), or because buyers are not immediately available.

The lot of produce must not contain damaged or diseased units, and containers must be well ventilated and strong enough to withstand stacking.

In general, proper storage practices include temperature control, relative humidity control, air circulation and maintenance of space between containers for adequate ventilation, and avoiding incompatible product mixes.

Commodities stored together should be capable of tolerating the same temperature, relative humidity and level of ethylene in the storage environment. The choice of cooling methods is dependent on a number of considerations:

Nature of the produce, Package design, Product flow capacity, Economic factors and Social factors.

Factors that may compromise quality during transportation; Are Mechanical damage, Overheating and Buildup of gases in the transport system.

 Packaging is a coordinated system of preparing goods for safe, secure, efficient, and effective handling, transport, distribution, storage, retailing, consumption and recovery, reuse or disposal combined with maximizing consumer value and hence profit.

Read Also : Health Impacts of Solid Wastes


Benadine Nonye is an agricultural consultant and a writer with several years of professional experience in the agriculture industry. - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education - PhD Student in Agricultural Economics and Environmental Policy... Visit My Websites On: 1. - Your Comprehensive Practical Agricultural Knowledge and Farmer’s Guide Website! 2. - For Effective Environmental Management through Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices! Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4Profits TV and WealthInWastes TV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

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