Apple & Pear Australia (APAL) continues to channel new avenues for industry expansion and improvement.
The peak industry body has been awarded a grant from the Victorian Government to help growers and packers understand the full cost of packing their fruit.
The funding will also help identify ways to optimise production and post-harvest operations, while ensuring the industry continues to deliver premium quality pipfruit.
“The aim of the project is to provide growers with the financial information they need to make informed decisions about upgrades, refurbishments, starting a new packing shed on a green-field site, or, possibly, amalgamation,” said APAL chief executive John Dollisson.
“We hope that this project helps growers identify ways to continue delivering premium quality fruit but in a more efficient manner, so that they are more competitive locally and internationally as the industry looks to increase exports of apples and pears.”
The Packhouse Optimisation Project will analyse the cost of packing, by developing a robust financial model of growers’ packing sheds. The project will be undertaken in Victoria with learnings shared nationally.
“There are more than 100 packing sheds in Australia that pack apples and pears,” added Dollisson. “With a few notable exceptions, the equipment and machinery used is quite old and may be coming to the end of its working life.
“This older equipment is less likely to use the more modern cost-saving technological advantages such as electronic defect sorting and robotic pallet handling. Its replacement may cost several million dollars and the relatively small volumes of fruit processed may not justify the risk or the expense associated with updating the machinery.
Thirteen growers and packers have committed to the project, however, with room for a small number of additional Victorian-based growers and packers to join.