Apata Group Limited appears to have a problem with fruit labelling all wrapped up, thanks to some innovative thinking, and materials and technology more commonly found in the building industry. The company has warmed and dried the environment in which SunGold kiwifruit is graded inside its Kaimai packhouse, by sealing off the area with plastic used to wrap leaky buildings, and installing a dehumidifier and a heating unit.
Apata’s general manager of operations Damian Young, who came up with the idea, says the skin of SunGold kiwifruit becomes damp when it’s removed from controlled atmosphere storage and the brand labels just wouldn’t stick. “We had to find an answer as Zespri requires that 100 per cent of export fruit carries its brand label.” Last year, fellow Bay of Plenty post-harvest company EastPack experimented with using a different type of plastic to create a stickerfriendly microclimate. This season Apata teamed up with Zespri to run a much larger, commercial-scale trial utilising the kind of plastic wrap generally associated with leaky buildings. SunGold is held at around one degree Celsius in CA stores and when the fruit is taken to the packhouse for grading, labelling and packing, its exposure to the outside air temperature causes the fruit’s surface to become damp and labels won’t stick.
Potential solution Seeing leaky buildings covered in white plastic wrap was the inspiration Damian needed to come up with a potential solution for the problem. Apata contacted Charlie Baxter of A1 Wrap Ltd, Tauranga, to see if it was possible to enclose the bin tip and grading tables in the Kaimai packhouse to create a new “controlled atmosphere” area in which to handle the fruit. Zespri commissioned two other companies, Drying Solutions from Tauranga and Air Solutions from Auckland, to set up systems to dehumidify and then heat the air in the newly enclosed area. “This means the fruit is graded in a dry, warm atmosphere, which stops the skin getting wet; and as a result we’ve been able to achieve 100 per cent labelling on all the fruit.” The project involved covering the grading area from floor to ceiling, installing zipped doorways, and tailoring the plastic wrap to fit around the bin tip and grader lanes where they exit to the packing area. Finding a solution to the labelling problem is a significant breakthrough for the entire kiwifruit postharvest industry because the volumes of SunGold held in CA storage in future seasons are set to increase significantly. “This season Apata put 76,000 trays of SunGold in CA storage and the fruit has held up really well.”
Controlled atmosphere While much of the crop is graded, labelled and packed for export as it’s harvested, some is put into CA storage in large picking bins so it can go through the packhouse at a later date. CA storage is different from cool storage as the atmospheric levels are artificially controlled and temperature reduced to allow longer storage while maintaining fruit quality. Putting fruit in bulk storage in CA stores spreads out the packing season as well as preserves fruit quality – and Damian says other postharvest companies are closely watching the Apata trial designed to overcome labelling issues. “We’re happy with the results and will refine the whole process before next season.” By Elaine Fisher Coast & Country News July 2015
Air Solutions provides the solutions to this problem using desiccant dehumidifiers. With dehumidification we physically remove the moisture from the air meaning easy to label, package and preserve all fruits.
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