Investigating efficient harvesting systems that improve product safety and quality (AL10009)
This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.
What was it all about?
The Australian almond industry had sought to further enhance its quality reputation and safeguard itself from food safety risks.
Australia was the second largest exporter of almonds at the time, exporting to more than 30 countries around the globe. In the next three years production was set to double to more than 80,000 tonnes. The Australian almond industry had developed and adopted world’s best practices and reached a point where it was producing greater yields than the Californian industry, achieving an industry average of 2.97 tonnes per hectare, and product quality that was highly regarded.
However, rain during the 2010 and 2011 harvest led to significant crop losses, estimated to be greater than $20million in 2010. Product integrity had been potentially compromised, with mycotoxin (i.e. Aspergillus) and bacterium (i.e. Salmonella, E. Coli, Listeria) contamination major concerns.
Several factors were thought to contribute to food safety risks: insect damaged fruit; diseased fruit; the harvest practices used at the time which included shaking the fruit onto the ground and collecting the fruit once the hulls had dried; and uncontrolled climate storage of harvested product.
This project undertook a study tour, industry workshop, and preliminary R&D by the School of Advanced Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering at the University of South Australia.
As a result of the activities undertaken a clear list of R&D opportunities were developed and a new R&D program established. The R&D program aimed to develop a more efficient production system that would see: almonds collected at the point of harvest without contacting the ground; harvested fruit dried to the appropriate moisture equilibrium (e.g. 5 per cent); controlled climate storage of harvested and dried product; and optimal quality sorting of product.
Following the successful completion of the proposed R&D program and industry adoption, the Australian almond industry would have further enhanced its product quality and ensured food safety.
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This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) with the voluntary financial support of the almond industry.
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