Implementing best practice of avocado fruit management and handling practices from farm to ripening (AV18000)
What was it all about?
From 2019 to 2023, this project identified and promoted improvements to practices in avocado supply chains from farms to retail distribution centres. The project team benchmarked farm and supply chain practices and performance for review by industry supply chain personnel and for the development of information resources. The most recent representative benchmarking of quality performance was undertaken in 2015, and projects leading up to 2019 suggested poor anecdotal adherence to best practice cool chain management.
Over the four years, 179 supply chains were monitored, with fruit originating in the five Australian production districts of Far North Queensland, central Queensland, central New South Wales, the Tristate area and southwest Western Australia. Data on farm/pack shed practices, cool chain practices and resulting fruit quality from supply chains was benchmarked and shared with the industry. The project identified and communicated the annual and district trends as well as the variability in fruit quality and management practices.
A key finding was that good fruit quality is generally emerging from the avocado supply chains, with 87 per cent of the individual fruit monitored meeting consumer expectations, close to the industry’s repeat purchase target of 90 per cent of fruit with less than 10 per cent damage. In response to this finding, the project team focused on identifying the root causes of the 34 per cent of supply chains not meeting the industry target for quality.
The research team found that the primary causes of suboptimal postharvest quality were :
- Ineffectiveness of in-field disease control programs and coverage.
- The poor health of trees.
- Unfavourable periods of weather.
- Poor tree nutrition and the lack of postharvest fungicide treatment.
- Longer transit times in the supply chains.
The sampling of fruit that developed a nationally representative fruit quality dataset was changed in the fourth year to a hybrid approach, engaging marketers and pack sheds to make the sampling process more cost-efficient. This approach had the bonus of increasing the engagement of national marketers.
The project team took an agile approach to the development and delivery of training and information, with activities including face-to-face and virtual discussions, workshops, best practice resource content development and the delivery of a collection of articles and videos to help support adoption and supply chain management practice change.
This project was a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Avocado Fund