In fruit and vegetable production, packing represents one of the final farm practices.
In order to sell the crops as soon as possible and continue with other farm activities, some farmers preferably skip crop packing. When doing so, they usually sell their products in shipping containers without a special package. For some farmers, on the other hand, packing is an obligatory farm practice, essential for crop quality preservation, as well as marketing management. In response to this, packing can be a simple practice of moving the fruit into a shipping container or it can include a variety of post-harvest management practices.
Packing House—a Multi-Purpose Farm Facility
Packing can be practiced on the farm, immediately after the harvest or later when the crops are delivered in a storage facility. Furthermore, packing can be practiced manually, or with the use of packing machines. The choice of adequate packing method will depend on the requirements of each crop production, as well as farmer’s financial possibilities and post-harvest management requirements.
A packing house is a special facility consisting of various units that perform the following post-harvest functions:
- Fruit receiving (also called “dumping“); a practice that includes moving the fruits from the bin or container to a packing house. The fruits can be delivered to a packing house manually, dumped on a conveyor belt or padded ramps. Besides that, the fruits can be dumped into the water.
- Sorting or selection; a practice performed in order to remove damaged, decayed and immature fruits before the additional post-harvest operations.
- Cleaning; some fruits requires additional cleaning or brushing in order to remove plant debris or dirt. The choice of adequate cleaning methods will primarily depend on the crop type being used.
- Fungicide application; practiced in order to reduce the occurrence of post-harvest diseases.
- Waxing; practiced in order to replace the natural wax removed during washing, reduce water loss, cover potential crop damages, and improve the appearance of the fruit.
- Sizing; a practice that divides the fruits by their weight or size.
- Quality grading; classification of fruits by grades or categories regarding their quality.
- Packing; the last practice in a packing house that includes placing the fruits into a specific package.
Each crop type has its own post-harvest management requirements, and therefore, the adequate type of a packing house. In regards to that, the choice of a packing house will depend on the purpose of crop production, crop’s post-harvest requirements, as well as farmer’s financial possibilities.
A Remarkable Investment or One More Financial Threat?
Considering that crop production is a serious business that requires many investments in farm technology, equipment, and other farm resources, farmers often find themselves at a crossroad: whether to invest in a specific farm equipment or play safe and continue with existing resources?
When making such decisions, the most important thing is to be completely aware of the situation. This means that a certain investment is recommended only if it’s really needed. Therefore, a packing house is an integral part of post-harvest management for farmers who practice crop packing before delivering the crops to the market. At the same time, a farmer must be able to produce and sell enough commodities to make sure his investment paid off.
For small-scale farmers, on the other hand, a packing house can be a risky investment. However, they can always collaborate and together achieve an efficient post-harvest management. After all, the best results come when a few farmers work together towards the same goal.
Now, to answer the question; a packing house is a remarkable investment only in case if the view is worth the climb. In other words, a farmer should invest in a packing house only if his current crop production and financial status allow him to go one step further.
Text sources: Citrus Fruit: Biology, Technology, and Evaluation; Milind Ladaniya || FAO