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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: Quantifying with Blueberry Impact Recording Device & Develop Information to Assist in Reducing Soft Berries in Machine Harvested Blueberries

Location: Innovative Fruit Production, Improvement and Protection

Project Number: 8080-21000-025-03-A
Project Type: Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Apr 1, 2013
End Date: Oct 15, 2015

The objectives for this project are: 1) develop an improved blueberry impact recording device (BIRD) to be smaller, lighter, and surface texture closer to a real blueberry; and 2) use the BIRD sensor and other accelerometers to identify points of berry bruising in the mechanical harvest and field transportation systems.

In this study, the BIRD sensor will be further refined by reducing its size and weight, and will be used to evaluate and identify impacts during harvesting of blueberries with commercial over-the-row harvesters and packing house technologies, and handling operation that cause fruit softening. The plan is to build four, miniaturized BIRD units with a smaller footprint. Analysis will be performed of commercial blueberry harvesters, fruit harvesting and handling methods, and packing house operation with the BIRD and other mechanical engineering sensors. Studies will be conducted to collect multiple data points in the field to analyze commercial over-the-row blueberry harvesters as well as to characterize field transportation systems and packing house operation. BIRD and other single-axis accelerometers, and digital strain and compression gauges with different sensing ranges will be mounted on blueberry plants, lugs, and pallets to determine mechanical forces that fruit is exposed to from the bush through the machine, and then into various transportation systems used by growers. In this project, a series of machine runs will be performed to correlate the force measured by BIRD and other accelerometers mounted on the bush with a range of harvester settings. Packing house operation (machinery and handling evaluation) will be performed with the introduction of the BIRD sensor alone and with blueberry fruit on the packing line. The flow of the sensor through fruit handling, in-line sensors, electric sorting machines, and finally into a fruit collection bin and placement into small clamshells will be videotaped and time stamped. The sensor will be removed from the clamshell, and data will be downloaded and analyzed with a software program (6) for impact force it has encountered during the packing house operation. We will conduct experiments with commercially hand-harvested ‘Duke’, ‘Bluecrop’, and ‘Elliott’ blueberries. In addition, the same varieties will be hand-harvested at night. Fruit will be taken to a packing shed, and sub-samples will be processed for firmness with a FirmTech II instrument (BioWorks, Wamego, KS) and sliced through the equator to determine bruise incidence. We will set up experiments to evaluate fruit quality of fruit picked at night, morning and afternoon, and placed in lugs two and four inches high, and dropped five or 10 times, one and two inches. We will install one-axial accelerometers oriented horizontally and vertically on lugs to describe the motion and sudden changes in direction that lugs go through during various handling processes. These data can be related to what happens under different farm situations since each farm handles the bush to the packing house transport of blueberries differently. Fruit will be analyzed after one or two weeks in cold storage. We could also determine the effect of harvesting fruit in cool and hot periods (e.g. at night, morning, and afternoon) on fruit quality after cold storage. The stored fruit will be evaluated for firmness and bruise incidence after seven days in cold storage.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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