Nowadays, when you have an access to multiple blueberry machinery and equipment suppliers, the producers and growers have difficulty in answering basic questions related to the process of blueberry production. Sometimes they are not aware of how many aspects they have to consider while choosing the best solution for them. Trying to clarify some doubts and to make the decision process easier we have prepared 5 key points to help producers understand the complexity of a tailored to their needs solution.
- Expected capacity for upcoming season and production forecast for next 3-6 years? What capacity do you need today and in the future?
Thinking about investing in a packing and sorting line for blueberries you need to think about the production capacity for the upcoming years. How is your production looking now compared to how will it look in the future? To answer this question, you need to analyse production forecast including structure of varieties and expected harvest per day. The final solution should be the response to the current and predicted demand including market trends and its future projections.
- What kind of quality do your customers demand? Do your fruits meet the required size, quality such as firmness, colour etc?
Quality is one of the crucial aspects to keep competitive advantage but there are various quality definitions created by different customers. With variety of blueberry sorting solutions available on the market from conventional to optical, category sorting, it is important to understand your market to choose solution with fast ROI. The main questions are: what is the shelf-life required as well as size, colour and softness tolerance.
- Do you sell the fruit from your own plantation or do you buy it from external suppliers?
Buying fruit from external producers, suppliers doesn’t mean that you will always get a good quality. Adapting production to the current trends in the market is crucial in the process of implementing automation to your packhouse. Even if the quality of the imported fruits is not quite satisfactory, having the possibility to sort the fruit by colour or softness will help you get rid of the fruits that will definitely not meet customer’s expectations.
- What type of harvesting do you use on your plantation: mechanical or manual?
Solutions proposed by equipment providers should be adapted to the type of harvesting and the type of work on the plantation. Manual harvesting usually means lower capacity than mechanical one, therefore it has also impact on quality and accuracy of harvested fruits. A tailored sorting solution allows to correct mistakes that were made during the harvesting process. For example using a cleaning equipment to separate berries from leaves and sticks might save time and thousands of dollars per year.
- What kind of packaging do you use in the packing process?
Before you think about automation of your production line, you need to remember about different packaging formats that you use to pack blueberries. A well-designed packing line should be flexible in its system settings by including as many packaging formats as possible.
While choosing a supplier to automate your production line, make sure it delivers a full solution, not just a single machine or equipment. It’s more convenient if there’s one vendor and one point of contact so there will be one project manager responsible for the whole line and not just a part of it. Producers and growers earn money in 2-3 months for the whole year, therefore the company should have a quick service response and access to spare parts in case of emergency situation. We understand how important is service and its availability during blueberry season. Our advice to the producers and the growers is: invest money in the company that you can trust and that understands your business.
Author: Pamela Rusin