Information about fruit quality can help growers with harvest decisions.
One of the benefits of presizing technology is the ability to provide real-time information to growers regarding fruit quality, says Olympic Fruit Company's Paul Koch. His goal is to give growers feedback within two days of harvest that they can use in making harvest decisions. Are they picking too deep? Is the firmness in the field dropping? Should they wait for better size and color?
He sees potential to help growers eliminate one of three Gala pickings by picking the inside fruit, which will never make market size, during the first picking. The fruit would be graded at harvest and not go into expensive storage.
Removing the smaller fruit could improve the quality of later-picked fruit.
Last season, several growers picked ten bin samples from their orchards for a run through Olympic Fruit's defect sorter to assess the severity of hail damage. Some blocks had 30 percent or higher hail damage.
"We hope to soon give information to the grower immediately after presizing," he said, adding that at some packing houses, growers do not learn about fruit quality and defects until the following June. "Sometimes it's too late then for the grower to implement changes, like nutrition or pest management."
Radio frequency identification technology
Koch believes the days are coming when radio frequency identification technology (RFID) will be used in orchards to facilitate automatic data storage and retrieval. Using RFID and bar codes on bins will help link the foreman and picker to each bin. The information can be used to isolate bruising or picking problems and be the basis for incentives awarded for achieving quality attributes instead of just volume.
Radio frequency identification technology is being used in one northern California wine grape vineyard, Ceàgo Vinegarden, with the RFID tags affixed to posts at the end of vine rows. Workers document various practices and grape development processes by using handheld readers to identify the row. They can document information such as if a row was pruned, who did the pruning, and how long it took.