Efficiency and damage control: What comes in packing and packing

reportajes_07092015_3In the fruit business, the task is not finished when harvesting a product in the garden. What happens next, in the process room and on the way to the destination markets, is the same or more relevant, especially for Chile, since most of the fruit travels more than 40 days by boat to reach the final consumer.

In the case of cherries, in the last three to five years the modernization of the packings has been notorious, according to the consultants and specialists of the sector, and currently almost all the main exporters and producers have process lines with the latest technology available to world level.

There, in addition to the color separators and calibrators that have been incorporated for several seasons in practically all the processors, one of the key elements of the last three seasons has been the arrival of automatic defect selectors, which reduce the risk of that they arrive at destiny fruits that present problems of quality and that also increase the efficiency of the process when requiring less people to revise the cherries.

-The defects selectors, that already have at least all our lines of processes, allow to save in labor, but do not ignore it, because there are certain defects that are much more difficult to detect, like some partitions that are located in places of the cherry where it is impossible for the team to visualize with the technologies we have today -explains the assistant manager of quality assurance and post-harvest of Copefrut, Francisca Barros.

Another important aspect is the packaging, since the bags in which the cherries travel, when faced with very high temperatures - above the 10 ° C - are not permeable enough to supplement the low oxygen produced by the respiration of the fruit with the increase in temperature, which has caused condition problems in its arrival at destination. However, in the sector they say that this happens only in specific situations, even when they say that -as with the ceilings in the orchards- the perfect bag still does not exist.

Beyond the specific elements that need to be advanced for the processing of cherries, producer José Miguel Diez says that the key is to improve post-harvest management as a whole, since only one aspect is not enough.

-In this should be considered to have hydrocooler in the orchards, refrigerated transport to the plants of selection and packaging, advance in the machines so that they treat more delicately the fruit and, of course, optimize the systems of cooling and storage of the finished product. Do not forget that from the moment of harvest the fruit begins physiologically to deteriorate and we have to focus on prolonging its optimal conservation as much as possible.


The beginning of the great change came in 2012, with the installation of the first automatic selector of external and internal defects for cherries, which has been improving in precision during the last seasons and growing to such a level that all major exporters are expected to have it incorporated in your packing for this harvest. In fact, they say that those who did not have them in the previous season had more quality problems when they arrived with fruits to China.

Among the main advantages that the system has is to require fewer people to check the fruit and, along with it, ensure that it has not been manipulated, which translates into more quality.

- With the defect selector people are tending not to have selection tables before the electronic calibrator and only have people who check the fruit before going to the box. If in addition to the defect selector they work with the filling with reflected weight and the homogeneous distribution system (Overflow), completing the process with a traceability system, they can have an average productivity of 50 kilos per hour / man in the season -detail Nour Abdrabbo, general manager of Unitec Chile, one of the leading companies in the sale of packing systems for cherries.

The Italian company presented last year an updated version of defect selector that has an optical system with HD cameras that increase efficiency in the detection of damage, called Cherry Vision 2, which has led to producers who had old packing lines , prior to 2010, are being updated to incorporate this technology.

- With it, the number of people who need and increase the capacity of the line decreases, because it has become an indispensable technology for any packing of cherries. In addition, it is not an unattainable investment and it is worth it because it is amortized by saving people and increasing the quality of the fruit, "adds Abdrabbo.


reportajes_07092015_4Another trend observed by exporters in recent seasons is to have smaller packaging formats, which is forcing them to adapt the process lines to achieve filling these boxes directly, without transferring or manipulating the fruit, something that It is still difficult to achieve without being mistreated and in some cases it generates bottlenecks in the process.

Nour Abdrabbo says that there are flexible filling systems, which allow to adapt to smaller packaging formats, but stresses that it is important to consider this aspect and the trends of what the market is looking for when designing a packing project.

-If you ask for a line to work with four thousand kilos per hour, you can not project with a complicated container, such as 2,5 kilos, and you should not project a line with the same capacity per hour in the case of a client who works with boxes of five kilos. In addition, you have to be very careful with the technologies before incorporating them into any line, for which you must first study their functionality and their dealings with the fruit - says Abdrabbo.

-What the industry offers today are clumshells fillers, but oriented rather that you have to incorporate it to the line and adapt, it is not that you change a mold and can fill smaller formats ... In that sense, it is an aspect that is It has been left a little more handmade and it is very necessary to incorporate more technology - says Francisca Barros.


Although in the industry they recognize that the bags of modified atmosphere have been a contribution to extend the life of postharvest of the cherries, they admit that they have had some problems with the breaks of temperature, since the stock market becomes almost an enemy of the fruit.

Solving this weak point on the road to arrive with the best quality of cherries in China is one of the aspects that has worried local researchers. A project carried out by academics from the Catholic University, supported by San Jorge Packaging and the exporter San Francisco Lo Garcés, will be translated this season into a new semi-commercial technology, which uses the concept of thermoforming, similar to that used for yogurt containers, with which the container is generated in the same process line.

-Generas the bottom of the container and then put a sheet. It is a system that, moreover, has been developed as a unit of modified atmosphere and we believe that it will be a revolution in the long term, because it allows to automate the process without damaging the fruit -explains the professor of the U. Católica Juan Pablo Zoffoli , postharvest specialist.

On the other hand, anticipates that with the same companies are working on the implementation of a biodegradable membrane that would travel adhered to the current bags of cherries, which would provide greater permeability to the container, thus avoiding damage due to higher temperatures.

-It is a highly permeable membrane that exerts the action of breathing, of oxygen entering the envelope. It is a biopolymer that comes out of conventional polyethylenes and that we are going to scale commercially, "adds Zoffoli, and anticipates that they will also test it this season in a pre-commercial manner, to evaluate its response and fine-tune details.

In this sense, the UC specialist insists that the development of new packaging for cherries should be addressed not from the point of view of improving what already exists, because the materials have their own limitations, but by creating new technologies of packaging


Source: Revista del Campo

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