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Food Facts: Automated Berry Harvesting and Packing Technology

“Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving, and identity.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer


Blackberry Harvester - A Combine


Introduction

Agricultural production is changing, both in philosophy and technology. Technology has shaped our world; without ever-changing technology, our world would not exist as we know it. If you were to look at small and simple things, let’s take your favorite coffee, for example; where would we be today without the latest brewing technology? Can you imagine how difficult life would be without coffee grinders? Or coffee shops selling your favorite sweet coffee frappe or iced beverage? Where would we be without fruit and berries in mass quantity? Would we have smoothies?


A farmer's decision to invest in precision farming technology is related to its potential to earn the farmer a more significant profit without compromising quality. Advancing technology improves the delivery of healthy food more efficiently. Today, chefs and home cooks rely on quick-to-market and farm fresh at your doorstep more and more each day.


Harvesting The Fruit

Take blackberries, for example, farmers harvest their orchards for those luscious, decadent berries we love to cook with and eat fresh. Just before harvest, the farmer plans and hires berry pickers. The berry pickers might be paid by the acre or pound, depending on the farmer's arrangement. Shortly after, the laborers arrive on the farm and spend a month or two harvesting and packing the berries for the market.


The laborers set up and gather washing equipment and packaging for delivery. Once the program is prepared, it is time to harvest the berries. The farmer checks peak sweetness for several days, usually around 3:00 am. They test by using a Brix Refractometer to determine the best fruit quality for picking. Once the farmer gives an “all-hands-on-deck” for picking notice, the laborers show up on the field with buckets, packing shells, and containers for the day. Picking berries usually happens in the dark of the night when the berries hold the most moisture and sweetness.


More and more berry farmers are using combines with shaking technology, where only the ripest fruit falls from the bush. The vibrations cause all the fruit to fall from into a basket, unbruised and intact, onto the conveyer belt. Once the fruit is off the vine, it floats down the conveyer removing leaves and branches, washing the fruit ready to load into the clamshell (a plastic holder with a moisture catchment), where it is trucked to a local produce hub and distributed to customers like us.



Blackberries in containers


Wrapping It Up

Farmers and produce hubs work hand in hand to move fresh products promptly. Distributors like Brothers Produce work with farmers to identify, better understand, and effectively manage more risks they expect to face in their farm business operations. These distributors take orders from restaurants, grocery stores, and caterers worldwide. Moving food is a $3T per year business and only getting bigger. Next time you are in the grocery store, thinking about making that smoothie or blackberry cobbler, think about the farmer who planned for that decadent and delicious berry on your countertop. Enjoy! ⧭





Blackberries and Coffee



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