Three new products offer anti-bruising help for next year’s harvest.
This season, growers are steeling themselves for challenging storage conditions, following wet weather in many areas of Canada. But even if weather can’t be controlled, to some extent, bruising can—which could mean an improved crop heading into storage.
Moncton-based Masitek Instruments Inc. is a private technology company offering customized and replicated devices to help identify root cause failures related to shocks in bottling, cracks in eggs and bruising in produce.
The company recently launched its next generation Smart Spud real-time wireless detection system for the potato industry. “This product measures impact and vibration so our customers can instantly and accurately detect where bruising and potato damage is occurring in post-harvest processes,” explains Tracy Clinch, president of Masitek.
The new generation Smart Spud features easy-to-use technology, according to Dave McNally, Masitek’s director of sales and marketing, which focuses on helping customers eliminate waste by reducing the two most common types of potato damage: black spot and shatter bruising.
Smart Spud wireless sensors are enclosed in replicated casings that can be placed alongside potatoes in harvesting, grading and packaging environments. “They go through the same conditions and react like real potatoes, sending constant data to on-site mobile tablets,” Clinch says. “Customers know immediately where bruising is occurring, and can make changes and validate the success of those adjustments within minutes.” That important data is also backed up on a computer server for later analysis and reporting purposes.
Masitek has added on-board memory to the circuit of the new generation Smart Spud devices. “This makes it possible for data to be backed up directly to the sensor, delivering a complete line profile even if the signal fades in an enclosed area,” says McNally. “Combined with the new Windows-based platform, this makes the new Smart Spud technology an industry leader in bruise prevention.”
According to the company, clients who have used the previous version have reported increased bruise-free rates of up to 10 per cent and overall cost savings that continue to make a positive impact on their bottom lines. “This updated and improved version will deliver even better and faster results,” says McNally.
At Potato Europe 2012 in September, United Kingdom-based Martin Lishman Ltd. re-introduced an electronic potato device designed to capture real impact forces on potatoes to their range of potato quality control equipment.
The product is sold in two variations, TuberLog and TuberLogPlus, which were devised and produced by a team of researchers from Potsdam University in Germany, together with electronics specialists from the development company ESYS and a panel of potato industry experts. According to the company, the new devices take previous electronic potato designs several steps further by incorporating Bluetooth and the latest Android technologies.
“Potato bruising is a serious problem in potato production worldwide, with estimates that more than 60 per cent of some crops are damaged in some way,” says Gavin Lishman, managing director of Martin Lishman. “At a time of low potato prices, the economic effects of such losses cannot be overestimated, so the arrival of the TuberLog is very timely. Preventive action by growers and processors looking to reduce their losses will be more justifiable and more likely to take place.”
Packhouses, processors, cooperatives and growers can all benefit from the quality control information that TuberLog provides. Built-in shock sensors measure and locate impacts that are likely sources of potato damage as the TuberLog passes through machinery along with real potatoes.
The TuberLog device comprises a data logger embedded in a synthetic shape designed to mimic the size, shape and density of a potato. The TuberLog data logger records impacts and temperature values during each measurement. The data can be stored in the logger itself or transferred by USB connection or Bluetooth to a PC or laptop where it can be stored and analyzed using the software supplied.
TuberLog data can be displayed as a table or graph of impacts as the device passes through the machine or as a percentage distribution of impacts of different levels. TuberLogPlus registers impacts instantly and the information is delivered both audibly, to the operator’s headphones, and visually, on the screen of an Android tablet. The operator watches the TuberLogPlus as it passes through the machine and can immediately see the exact source of the impact.
Impact measurements from the devices can be compared with bruise test results from real potatoes taken from the same machine section. This type of comparison, conducted in several situations, allows for the swift interpretation of results. As an example, it may be known that a variety starts bruising at the 150 grams impact level, but TuberLog records impacts of 50g, so that particular variety can safely be processed by a machine with sources of impacts that are too low to cause damage.
Potato “Hot Box”
Similarly, Martin Lishman’s SMQC Potato Hot Box is an on-farm bruise testing device that assists with crop assessment on-farm before the potatoes go into storage or are processed.
When potatoes are bruised, the physical effects are not immediately visible. A biochemical reaction takes place which gradually causes a colour change at the point of impact. In cool, dry conditions this effect can take several days to appear. Blackspot is the consequence of the susceptibility of potatoes to bruising caused by high impact levels during handling. It consists of dark-coloured spots below the skin surface which become visible after peeling.
The Potato Hot Box speeds up the reaction time of potato tubers to show physical effects of bruising by creating the optimal warm, damp conditions in which bruise development occurs. Typically, a temperature setting of 30 C for a time period of 12 hours is sufficient to bring out any bruising.
Samples are peel-tested for bruises as soon as they are removed from the hot box. The degree of blackspot severity is assessed from the number of times the potato must be peeled before the spot disappears.
The design of the hot box also allows levels of tuber blight and soft rot to be assessed. Lower temperatures and longer testing times can be selected, suitable for accelerating the incubation of diseases.
Using tools like these, commercial growers could find that their potatoes have fewer bruises—limiting damage as crops head into storage.