The content of this article ‘New technology in strawberry production‘ has been prepared by Hort Innovation and has been revised and republished by FreshFruitPortal.com.
A wide range of technologies have emerged in the horticultural industries in recent years.
These technologies can improve strawberry production by reducing inputs and increasing efficiency in a range of tasks on and off the farm.
A number of these technological advancements have had a direct impact on strawberry production, with a sample of these technologies including those related to breeding, production, labor / people savings and markets. .
These recent developments have helped address a number of issues facing the industry, particularly changing consumer habits, product shelf life, labor force availability and affordability, and a range of agronomic practices.
Some major advancements in the strawberry industry have come from the development of a wide range of new varieties.
Varieties have been developed which focus not only on increasing consumer demand through more robust, attractive and flavorful fruit characteristics; but also varieties increasingly resistant to diseases, reducing the use of chemical inputs.
A notable recent global development has been the collaboration between Israeli start-up NRGene and Japanese automaker Toyota, which resulted in the decoding of a variety of leading commercial strawberry in Japan.
Toyota has been involved in the development of various crop varieties over the years, partnering with NRGene to increase breeding efficiency and develop more productive strawberry varieties for the Japanese market.
It is hoped that this research will help advance not only the strawberry industry in Japan, but also around the world.
In Australia, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF) Strawberry Breeding Program was established to create a more profitable strawberry industry through:
- Delivery of new varieties with more efficient production of robust, attractive and tasty fruits;
- Respond to changing market and environmental demands; and
- Target production areas and temperate, subtropical and Mediterranean needs.
The program is funded by Hort Innovation through the Strawberry Research and Development Tax and contributions from the Australian government and QDAF.
The show has released a number of varieties to date, including “Suncoast Delight”, “Red Rhapsody”, “Sundrench” and “Parisienne Kiss”.
All of them have different attributes which aim to benefit not only the producer but also the end consumer.
In recent years, the industry has gradually evolved from conventional strawberry production in open ground to growing in substrate in controlled environments.
This change is becoming increasingly popular due to the potential of controlled environments to reduce the impact of soil-borne diseases, as well as provide protection from weather, pests, weeds and various other diseases.
With increasingly limited access to effective soil fumigants, agricultural companies have developed alternatives to control soil pests and diseases.
One example is ethanedinitrile (EDNTM FUMIGAS), a broad spectrum soil fumigant promoted as a replacement for methyl bromide.
Ongoing research is investigating the use of new and currently available combinations of fumigants to increase disease control effectiveness.
Another development in the practice of soil fumigation is the use of the totally impermeable film (TIF).
TIF increases the retention of fumigants in the soil profile, increasing their effectiveness, reducing the concentration required and reducing the loss of fumigant to the atmosphere.
Other available fumigation practices include steam disinfestation, microwave disinfestation, and biofumigant cover crops.
Another example of advancements in production has been the adoption of pulse irrigation, which can be used for both underground production and substrate production.
Due to the low water-holding capacity of substrates, pulse irrigation is commonly used to irrigate crops as needed.
Pulse irrigation systems give several short bursts of water to meet the needs of the crops, resulting in more efficient water use and optimization of plant growth.
Rising costs and staff availability make labor one of the biggest overhead costs in strawberry production and the biggest challenge companies face.
Labor pressures have led to an increase in interest and demand for automated technologies to facilitate harvesting.
Companies like AGROBOT, Harvest CROO and Octinion are developing a line of automated robotic systems for the strawberry industry that operate autonomously or semi-autonomously to pick fruit in field and tabletop production.
The controlled production environment under protected crops and table tops leads the way with advancements in the automated picking space.
The Rubion d’Octinion robot is an advanced example of a near-to-market system, offering significant advancements in the picking hand for even pressure distribution of ripe fruit.
Meanwhile, the challenges of field harvesting are explored with examples such as AGROBOT’s E series, a fully autonomous robotic harvester for conventional ground and tabletop production.
The autonomous robot, which has the capacity to harvest two conventional rows and four rows of strawberries on the table, moves around the growing area to pick the desired fruits by analyzing maturity, shape and size.
Unlike other robotic harvesters, the E series picks the fruit by cutting above the calyx to avoid damaging the fruit.
Once the fruits have been picked, they are then transferred, with one of its 24 robotic arms, to trays which are located in the center of the machine and then brought back to the packaging sheds.
A high-profile field-based automated harvesting system is being developed by Harvest CROO robotics, to address migrant labor shortages in the U.S. and global market, while continuing to work with current grower practices.
The robot works similarly to the E series, in that it covers several rows at a time and picks the fruit with a mechanical arm, especially in field production.
However, it uses a mechanical arm to hold the leaves of the strawberry plant to expose the fruit, which is then scanned with a series of different sensors to determine the ripeness of the fruit.
The fruits are then picked and placed in a packing tray to be returned to the packing shed.
A number of recent technological advancements have made it possible to improve sanitation methods, extend fruit shelf life and produce better quality fruit.
These developments have the potential to move the industry forward in both profitable and sustainable ways and ultimately increased producer incomes by opening up new markets and extending shelf life.
Cold plasma processing is one such advancement that has the potential to increase market access and extend product shelf life.
Cold plasma is created by applying an electric current to normal air or gas. This produces reactive gas species which have broad spectrum antimicrobial activity.
Cold plasma is effective at temperatures slightly above room temperature, which means products can be processed without being heated.
The potential benefits of Cold Plasma technology include improved food safety and reduced post-harvest losses due to rot; reducing treatment time from seconds to minutes and providing energy efficient treatment with no chemical residue.
The technology has yet to be commercialized, but research shows promising results.
The packaging of fresh produce has changed dramatically over the past 20 years with a variety of different options now available to producers and packers to increase the shelf life and marketability of products.
As single-use plastics become less attractive to consumers, fully recyclable and recycled packaging is becoming a more viable option.
Recyclable and recycled packaging, made up of PET, cardboard and compostable starch-based materials, allows packers and retailers to market their products, but also to meet consumer demand for more sustainable packaging options. .
Packaging still has a place in the fresh produce supply chain, especially when it comes to food safety, something consumers are much more aware of after the strawberry adulteration crisis of 2018.
Different types of packaging, namely tamper evident packaging, allow packagers and retailers to ensure that there has been no contamination of products throughout the supply chain.
Supply chain traceability is becoming increasingly important for producers, packers, retailers and consumers to ensure place of origin and product safety.
Blockchain is an up-and-coming technology that has become increasingly popular as it addresses this need, while improving the efficiency of other supply chains.
The technology records a chain of information relating to the transaction history of a product and enables all actors in the product supply chain to learn about the transaction history.
Blockchain is unique because it is a non-destructive way to track changes within a supply chain, which means it is a more accurate and secure way to track changes. products throughout the supply chain.
The decentralized nature of the blockchain also means that it significantly reduces the risk of product adulteration throughout the supply chain.
Source: Hort Innovation