R & D Roundup by Ben Brown Almond Harvest Systems Review
Spoilage of a significant tonnage of almonds has been the industry experience in the 2010 and 2011 harvests with rain events delaying the end of the season and promoting mould growth and other quality issues. The value of lost and spoiled product is valued in the tens of millions of dollars. With this experience fresh in our memories and with the Australian almond industry production set to double by 2015, it is widely recognised three issues are of particular importance to research in the near future. These being: 1. Efficiency of current harvesting techniques. 2. Handling logistics, such as storage/ aeration/dehydration. 3. Negative impacts on product quality, food safety and market access. The three are inter-related as the Australian almond industry is predominantly planted to Californian varieties which, whilst widely accepted in the market place, are vulnerable to
quality defects (e.g. chips, scratches and insects) and food safety concerns arising from their soft shell, lack of shell seal and ground harvesting techniques. Furthermore, the industry believes there may be opportunities to improve efficiency and productivity of the harvest and logistics process with either improvements to current equipment or possibly the development of new equipment. Many horticultural industries have previously benefited from the introduction of advanced mechanised production systems and controlled, post harvest handling. Whilst almonds are considered quite mechanised, the Australian industry believes further opportunities exist to deliver increased cost efficiency, yield maximisation and enhanced product quality. To address these objectives the following areas are being investigated: 1. Advanced harvest systems:
3. Storage review:
• Aeration/dehydration 4. Primary and secondary processing review
Several R&D proposals have been developed with their objectives aligning themselves to the following five strategies of the Almond Industry R&D Strategic Plan 2011-16: • Strategy 2.1 – Establish practices to enhance product quality throughout the value chain. • Strategy 2.2 – Promote food safety practices from production through to consumption. • Strategy 2.3 – Develop and enhance product differentiation. • Strategy 3.1 – Improved productivity and competitiveness across the value chain. • Strategy 3.3 – Support sustainable almond production.
• One pass, collect and retrieve • One pass, shake, and catch