According to Paula Del Valle, post-harvest specialist and general manager at MyBlueproject, the post-harvest handling of the fruit can’t be underestimated in terms of importance. “The processes in the production chain of berries present various critical points in each of the stages, that must be observed, analysed and integrated, in order to coordinate each one in order to deliver the final customer with a fruit of the best possible quality and condition, so that their experience meets expectations.”
De Valle states that post-harvest handling is essential to preserve the quality and condition of the fruit. “Without good logistics, good and timely handling of pre-cooling, or without an adequate selection of defects and technology according to transits or storage times, it is very difficult to preserve the work during the season. Post-harvest is in charge of preserving the quality that is harvested. So if we did a good job during the year, we are going to harvest good quality fruit, postharvest becomes something fundamental.”
“Postharvest begins when I literally extract the fruit from the plant; but it is not disaggregated from the previous stages. For example, the harvest cycle of a certain area, the readmissions every few days I harvest, according to a maturity index, have a great influence on the post-harvest period, since they directly affect the quality and condition of the fruit. From this point of view, we can say that the postharvest begins before the harvest, but if we wanted to talk about stages, we could define them as the flow below:
As can be seen in the diagram, postharvest intervenes in each of the stages of the production chain, with critical stages from the beginning to the final consumer.”
There is no secret that allows anyone to gain quality during the process, Del Valle explains. “Gaining quality, per se is impossible. What we must do, is work to preserve the quality of the harvest. We can say at this point that the critical stages are until pre-cold, lowering the temperature as soon as possible; As can be seen in the diagram, what is marked in red is critical, after which sorting, management of the process line and storage come into play.”
“It’s a process of continuous improvement, if I skip any stage, or have logistical problems for the transfer of the fruit from the orchard to the pre-cold operation, I’m in trouble. Then, if the air flow is very strong in pre-cold conditions, it dehydrates. We must combine times and be patient, there will not be a better result by moving too fast. The logic of these processes is both simple and complex at the same time. What we must do often conflicts with what we can do, that is why each operation with its complexities is different from the other, there are guidelines, but adapting to the situation is crucial.”
According to De Valle, there are a couple of postharvest defects that are mainly observed in berry fruits. “In general, the defects that we can observe most frequently are blemishes, dehydration, loss of bloom, tears due to bad harvest process, soft and dehydrated fruit, overripe fruit and if there is condensation due to cold management problems, we can find mold and decaying depending to the amount of inoculum in the orchard. We have few defects, but it’s precisely for this reason that special attention must be paid to each of the stages, in the processes and moments of harvest, how and when.”
“Today we are faced with an informed consumer, who identifies origins and labels, knows what he is looking for and knows at what times of the season he finds fruit of one origin or another. That is why we must work to deliver this quality product, with the appropriate Bloom, with optimal firmness, health, quality and condition. This was an important point addressed in the last version of the IBO Summit, growing in volume, but always preserving excellent quality and condition,” De Valle concludes.
To learn more about berries post-harvest, join the online masterclass with Paula Del Valle that will take place from September 12th until September 28th. The course will be held in Spanish with simultaneous translation to French and English.
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