One of the main sources of food waste on farms is produce being lost between harvest and distribution. Much like the measures which reduce the levels of food waste during harvest, many of the most effective solutions to this problem are not expensive. For example, according to the government’s official food waste minimization manual, 40% of grains are over- or under-dried during storage, resulting in their waste; investing approximately £1,000 on improved air-humidity control equipment can lead to an estimated increase in profit of £3,000 a year through reductions of food waste.
If, like many farmers, you lose a substantial amount of your harvested crops in storage, you should consider how you can improve your storage processes and equipment to reduce your levels of food waste.
EXTENDING THE LIFESPAN OF YOUR PRODUCE WITH STORAGE
No matter if you’re storing fruits, vegetables, or cereals, your storage facilities should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected prior to being filled. This will drastically reduce the chance of contamination and help stop the spread of any existing disease throughout your crops.
Your storage units must have adequate ventilation to ensure your crops do not spoil, and you also should be able to control their temperature, humidity, and air circulation levels. As noted above, making the one-off investment in this equipment can lead to thousands in extra profits each year.
Make sure that only produce that requires the same temperature and humidity levels are stored alongside each other — take a look at the FAO’s database of recommended storage temperatures for an easy-to-use reference guide. Constructing your storage facilities in shaded areas and painting them white to reflect the sun’s rays will help them stay cool and save you money on refrigeration.
You should also make sure to keep crops that produce high levels of ethylene, such as apples, separate from those which are sensitive to the chemical, such as lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes — storing them together is likely to result in the sensitive crops spoiling.
PREPARING YOUR PRODUCE FOR STORAGE
You can also drastically increase the lifespan of your crops in storage by cleaning, grading and selecting, and removing the field heat from them before placing them in storage.
Cleaning your produce before placing it into storage will go a long way towards preventing the spread of disease among your crops, particularly if they are going to be stored in bulk. It will also remove any stones or clods of soil that will compact your produce, restrict its ventilation, and potentially carry spoilage pathogens.
Utilizing purpose-made vegetable brushes will allow you to clean your produce in the most efficient way possible in preparation for storage. Using these brushes in a conveyor belt system allows you to place hundreds of crops in one end of the machine and then sort through them at the other end of minutes later. Take a look at our full range of vegetable brushes for models which are delicate enough to polish soft fruit to those which are hard enough to peel potatoes.
After your produce has been cleaned, you’ll be able to more easily identify those which are damaged, infected, and over-mature. These should be discarded rather than placed into storage with the good produce, as they can spoil an entire container’s worth of stock if left unchecked through the spread of pathogens or disease.
The final stage in preparing your produce for storage should be removing all of the field heat from the crops. If produce is warm when it is placed into storage, it will be a constant battle to keep its temperature down to the required level, as it will only increase once they are confined in storage. This can also lead to the accumulation of high levels of carbon dioxide, which can spoil the crops.
You should therefore cool your produce off by temporarily placing it in refrigeration, or alternatively stacking it in ventilated pallets in the shade. These crops can be placed in storage when they have reached the optimum temperature at which they need to be stored.