TOMATO PACKING TECHNOLOGY
The most commonly used indicator of fecal contamination in fresh produce production and packing is Escherichia coli. In depth analysis of the prevalence and characteristics of naturally occurring E. coli strains in these environments is important because it can (1) serve as an indicator of sources of fecal contamination; and (2) provide information on strain pathogenicity, persistence, and other defining characteristics such as multidrug resistance. In this study, we analyzed 341 E. coli strains isolated from the jalapeño pepper, tomato and cantaloupe farm environments, in Northeast Mexico. Strains were isolated from produce, farmworkers' hands, soil and water. Pathotypes, genotypes, biofilm formation and antibiotic resistance were characterized. Phylogenetic subgroups and identification of diarrheagenic E. coli were determined by PCR; biofilm formation was quantified using a plate-based colorimetric method. Antibiotic resistance was analyzed by the Kirby Bauer diffusion disc method. Most isolates (N = 293, 86%) belonged to phylogenetic group A. Only four isolates (1.2%) were diarrheagenic: EPEC (N = 3) and ETEC (N = 1). Antibiotic resistance to tetracycline (23.2%) and ampicillin (19.9%) was high, and only 3.5% of the strains presented resistance to >5 antibiotics. Biofilms were produced by most strains (76%), among which 34.4% were categorized as high producers. The presence of antibiotic resistant E. coli strains that may contain gene markers for pathogenicity and which can form biofilms suggests potential health risks for consumers.
TOMATO PACKING PROCESS
A fuzzy mathematical program is formed when the strict requirements within a mathematical program (objective coefficients, right-hand-side values, inequality conditions, etc.) are fuzzified. In general, such fuzzifying is appropriate for situations where the values or conditions are subjects of perception. In tomato packing, uncertain elements attributed to human perception are quite common. Such elements include harvest time, tomato packing rate, and shortage cost. In this paper, we first provide an LP formulation to determine the production schedule for a fresh tomato packinghouse. Then the corresponding fuzzy elements are fuzzified into a fuzzy model which is solved using an auxiliary model (mixed 0–1 LP). Using real-life data, we compare the cost obtained from the LP to that from the fuzzy model. It is found that the cost from the former is substantially higher. We observe that the rigid tomato packing requirements in the LP results in an unrealistic optimal solution, while the fuzzy programming seeks to realize a desirable solution (as perceived by the user) by relaxing some resource restrictions. It is further observed that such opportunistic relaxation of constraints to achieve a better solution is typical of decision-making behavior in tomato packing.
TOMATO PACKING EQUIPMENT
The physical and mechanical properties of tomato fruits are very pertinent and crucial in the design of mechanised equipment for harvesting, cleaning, sorting, grading, storing and packaging for transportation from farms to processing plants or market centres. The concept of physical and mechanical properties can be applied to prevent the degradation of tomato fruits during harvesting and processing. The objective of this research is to establish the physical and mechanical properties of locally cultivated tomatoes (Eva F1 variety) in the Bono Region of Ghana. The 3-Dimensional linear characteristics of the samples obtained from linear measurement lead to the conclusion that Eva F1 is spherical and as a result it can undergo both sliding and rolling motions because of the aspect ratio which is between 77.54 to 95.18 and sphericity values above 83.00. The linear measurements also revealed that handling and sorting devices should have an aperture size between 34 and 77 mm for outlet or inlet dimension for mechanisation. An ELE compression machine was used to determine the firmness of different grades of Eva F1 tomatoes (red and yellow). An average compressive force of 16.88 N was found to cause fracture to the cell wall of a ripe (red) tomato while the yellow grade experienced an average force of 21.77 N. An inclined plane was used to determine the coefficient of friction for two different wooden surfaces (smooth and rough wawa boards). Average coefficient of friction values higher than 0.22 are recommended for mechanised material handling equipment and 0.21 or lower for packing boxes suitable for transportation. The research also showed that the best stage for the transportation of tomato is when they are at the yellow stage with low coefficient of friction and can absorb more energy before rupture.
According to Mateusz Wajnert, head of sales for Polish apple exporter Galster, their harvest season will finally come to an end: “We’re on the final lap in Galster with our harvest and it wasn’t an easy harvesting season for us. We had a problem with the number of employees, and on top of that the labor has cost us a lot more than it did in the previous season. However, we’re finally seeing that our harvesting will conclude successfully. The apples have been picked on time and are in good quality, which is the most important thing. In terms of volumes, we’ve harvested the amount that we expected beforehand. We will be able to fill our control atmosphere cold-stores with multiple varieties of apples, that our customers will need over the course of the season. For example, we will have the biggest volumes of Royal Gala in our company’s history.”
Tony Campos of International Citrus and Produce of Burlingame, CA says it brings in the majority of its limes from Martinez de la Torre, which is nearing the end of its current crop. “They don’t have a lot of supply right now due to the lack of quality for packing. Most of the sizing is 200s, 175s, 150s and 110s,” says Campos.
Instead most of the supply out of Mexico is coming from the Southern states. “They’re in the newer crop and they’re mainly 230s and 250s,” says Campos. He notes that this is similar to last year at this time. “Usually this is the time of year when the Southern states start up with a newer crop and have more quality and volume available.”
Meanwhile demand right now for limes is steady but on the slower side. “It’s stable,” says Campos. “It’s kind of flat lined right now. The demand doesn’t supersede the volume coming in.” In addition, the company also participated in various competitions. The firm attended Ifema with the illusion of achieving the highest distinction in up to three different contests and awards: 'Internet Stars', a competition that awarded the fruit and vegetable companies that make better use of the new communication platforms, in which Looije was a finalist in the Best online company category; 'The Innovation Hub awards,' in which the Fruit Attraction jury awarded the best and most original innovation projects within the sector; and 'Relatos de # AgroInspiración', a podcast contest that sought to honor the daily work of agricultural workers. In this last contest, Looije's radio piece, 'On vacation and life-saving', was awarded first prize. The company will donate the € 1,000 prize to the Águilas Mental Health Association (Afemac).
The return of tomato packing foodservice
However the foodservice portion of that demand has come back. “I think foodservice demand is up to 100 percent. We ship the majority of our product to Northern California and most of the business is foodservice and chain stores. Wholesalers are seeing cheaper limes coming in from Southern states so their demand isn’t as high for us,” says Campos. “The challenge right now is the different pricing from different growing regions.”
As for pricing, there’s pressure on pricing given the volume from the other producing regions. “Martinez has been trying to push up the market because they don’t have a lot of volume,” says Campos. “But the Southern states have more volume so it’s cheaper.” He adds that pricing in those regions for 230s, 250s and 200s is $10-$12 FOB Texas while Martinez pricing is a little higher because of its lack of fruit.
However Martinez will start its new crop in the beginning of November when it will produce more 230s and 250s and fewer 200s and 175s which should bring up pricing. “Right now 85 percent of the fruit coming in from Martinez is 200s and larger,” Campos says. Also factoring into that will be the colder months in Mexico when there will be fewer limes available. “We will start seeing a decrease in volume during the winter months and we’ll start seeing prices in FOB Texas from the mid to high teens,” he adds.
Wajnert states that their trading also started a bit later due to the delay in harvest. However, they’re now communicating the fact that they’re ready to get started to their clients. “As the harvest of the Polish apples was slightly delayed, so was the start of the trading season. At this moment we’re slowly giving the green light to our customers, as we are ready to start packing the apples for them. I think that at the beginning of the season the price was underestimated because of infrastructure deficiencies of control atmosphere cold-stores and in some cases because of quality. We are in a good mind that in the next few months prices will be more satisfying for us.”
Active sachets with antifungal effects and an C2H4 scavenger were developed. Firstly, free thymol (T) or encapsulated thymol (ET) was added at different dosages into sachets containing a KMnO4-loaded sepiolite (SK) and evaluated against Botrytis cinerea at 11 °C in vitro and on inoculated cherry tomatoes. Secondly, the functionality of such sachets was validated on cherry tomato quality during 28 d at 11 °C + 3 d at 22 °C. From the in vitro assay, T-containing sachets led to the highest fungal inhibition (≥91 %), followed by the SK + ET combinations and SK. In contrast, SK- and T-including sachets comparably restrained fungal incidence on tomatoes, but their combination led to an increased incidence. This effect was lessened by the thymol encapsulation. From the validation experiment, the quality changes in cherry tomato followed zero-order kinetics and Weibull models. The C2H4-scavengers were found helpful in controlling postharvest fungal diseases while preserving fruit quality.
Combination of novel technologies for post-harvest processing can have advantages in terms of food safety and quality to reduce food waste. In this work the combination of cold plasma treatment and an equilibrium modified atmosphere packaging (EMAP) for cherry tomatoes was investigated under controlled temperature (10 and 20 °C) throughout storage. Results show that applying a plasma treatment to cherry tomatoes preserved the sensorial quality characteristics of the treated product. A reduction of microbial load on the product surface due to the plasma treatment was demonstrated. Package was important to prevent weight loss and changes in total soluble solid content over 14 days of storage. A higher microbiological growth was detected within the packed cherry tomatoes, while a plasma treatment before packing reduced microbiological growth during the early days of storage. The combination of a cold plasma treatment, storage temperature and EMAP design ensured the quality retention of cherry tomatoes, which suggests that they have potential to be used as hurdle technology. The right combination of different preservation technologies is able to reduce food waste and prolong the shelf life and quality of highly perishable vegetable goods.