Submitted to: Applied Engineering in Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 4, 2010
Publication Date: February 10, 2011
Citation: Mizushima, A., Lu, R. 2011. Cost benefits analysis of in-field presorting for the apple industry. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 27(1):33-40. Interpretive Summary: Postharvest storage and handling in the packinghouse is a major cost component in apple production. With current harvest practices, inferior and good apples are placed into the same fruit bins and transported to the packinghouse for storage and then packing. Growers will receive much lower revenue or even lose money if a high percentage of culls are present in the bins because of high costs for storage, sorting and grading. In-field presorting, which removes culls or inferior fruit from marketable fruit, has potential to help growers achieve significant cost savings in postharvest sorting, grading, and storage. To guide the development of in-field presorting technology, this paper presents cost benefits analysis of in-field presorting practice. Packinghouse costs for culls and yearly in-field presorting costs were estimated for typical apple production situations in the U.S. Cost benefits from in-field presorting were analyzed for fresh apple growers, processing apple growers and packinghouses. Presorting practice is financially beneficial to apple growers with a production capacity of 1,400 bins (or about 510 metric tons) or greater, if it can be incorporated with current harvest practices and the machinery cost is no more than $30,000 per unit. Processing apple growers can gain more financial benefit because in-field presorting would enable them to sell some apples to the fresh market that would otherwise be destined for processing. In-field presorting is also beneficial in mitigating postharvest pest/disease problems, improving inventory management and packinghouse productivity, and enhancing product traceability. The economic analysis results reported in this paper provide guidelines for researchers and engineers in the development of in-field presorting systems.
Technical Abstract: In-field apple presorting is intended to separate culls that are only suitable for processing or making into juice from apples that would meet the fresh market requirements, so that growers can achieve cost savings in postharvest storage, grading, and sorting. This paper reports on the cost benefits analysis of in-field presorting for the U. S. apple industry. Packinghouse costs for culls that would be saved from in-field presorting and in-field presorting yearly costs were defined and estimated to evaluate potential cost benefits for fresh apple growers, processing apple growers and packinghouses. For fresh apple growers producing 1400 bins (or 508 metric tons) or more, in-field presorting is beneficial if the machinery cost is less than $30,000 (assuming 7-year machine life, 0.3 full-time labor, and 44 bins/day sorting capacity). Smaller fresh apple growers producing 900 bins (or 327 metric tons) may also benefit from in-field presorting when they have higher cullage rates (i. e., 40% or higher). In-field presorting is more beneficial to processing apple growers even when the production capacity is as low as 700 bins (254 metric tons). Presorted apples are more consistent in quality, thus enabling packinghouses to better manage postharvest storage/packing operations to meet the market needs. In addition, a properly designed in-field presorting system can readily provide information about the origin and quality/condition of fruit in each bin, thus enhancing product traceability. The economic analysis results presented in this paper are useful in guiding the development of in-field presorting systems that will ultimately benefit the apple industry.