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The Pursuit of High Quality In Strawberries

By Tanmay Bhargava on Mar 23, 2021 11:09:00 PM

Strawberries

They say assessing quality, especially in soft fruits like strawberries, isn’t simple. We prove the opposite with the help of an app. And guess what; it’s easy to use!

Strawberries are one of the most favoured commodities in fresh produce. They are also one of the most perishable. 

Being fragile, they are highly susceptible to injury and bruising. Being temperature-sensitive, their thin skin rapidly losses water. It makes them predisposed to post-harvest decay, exacerbating the problem. 

For a fruit that already has a short shelf-life, these factors erode any competitive advantage growers in Australia or the US have. So, the pursuit of high quality becomes imperative if you want to control a sizable chunk of the juicy market. 

Common issues with quality in strawberries

Strawberries are non-climacteric. They don’t ripen once harvested. It’s why punnets with ripe, red berries fetch a better price as they have a higher sugar content and, therefore, a tastier flavour profile. 

This constitutes the first issue in quality. Pickers and packers need to keep an eye on ripeness. Harvest them too early, and the berries end up in the reject pile. 

After picking, the soluble solids content (SSC) also stagnates. So, to attain flavour consistency, pickers must monitor it too. The gold standard is 10%, but anything above 7% is acceptable. 

Strawberries run the whole gamut on firmness, acid content, colour, disease and sugar, depending upon the variety. So, the type of strawberry grown also impacts quality. 

Handle with care

Manual grading while packing is another area where concerns in quality arise. The fruit needs a delicate touch. Squeeze them harder than necessary, and the berries bruise horribly. 

For the same reason, they need to be placed gently in punnets. It also means the lesser it is handled manually, the better the quality.

Mind the degrees

But injury during picking and packaging is only the second major cause of poor quality in strawberries. The primary is storing at the wrong temperature after harvest and during transport. 

The single most pivotal factor in maximising shelf life and quality is temperature control because warm strawberries injure more easily. 

So, the speckled fruit needs low-temperature storage, including rapid removal of field heat and maintaining 0 to 1ºC during distribution. 

Quick as a flash and easy as pie

When both manual handling and temperature are constraints, strawberry growers, packers, and distributors need a new approach to quality assessment. A handheld app offers just that. It makes quality inspections quick and easy.

For instance, a grower or export opens the app, chooses the process - packing, shipping or any other, then creates a comprehensive report. The app has all the quality parameters you’ll need to record like:

  • Ripeness: percentage of pink or red colour 
  • Appearance: size, uniformity, shape
  • Gloss: freshness or water loss
  • Firmness: absence of soft, overripe or leaky berries
  • Defects: decay, bruising, shrivelling or disease

You can click pictures of the strawberries and save them. Even sharing the report with the supervisor (or client) is effortless and requires a single tap. 

Because the PDF report has all the supporting images attached, there is no additional manual handling - something strawberries can’t afford. Instead of physically assessing the harvested trays for defects like signs of grey mould, the crew supervisor simply checks the report and images.

Moving fast on quality in strawberries

It doesn’t get easier than this - recording quality simply with an app. 

In soft fruits such as strawberries that are constantly threatening to die on you, tech like this is a saviour. More so when businesses are cracking under the pressure of labour scarcity, and quality checks are the first thing to be ignored.

 

Sources:
Quality Assurance for Strawberries: A Case Study 
Strawberry Good Practice Guide By Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited

Tanmay Bhargava

Written by Tanmay Bhargava