Australia: Mechanisation of harvesting raspberries researched

Oliver Gales didn’t grow up with agriculture, but it didn’t stop him from being interested in agriculture, studying in agriculture and now making important research into Tasmanian horticulture earning him the Fruit Growers Tasmania Honours Scholarship.

Through gaining summer employment at Westbury farms, Oliver saw an opportunity in the raspberry industry to increase efficiency and productivity through the mechanisation of harvesting raspberries.

This means using large machines that shake the berries from the canes. Machines have been used before to harvest raspberries, but due to the destructive nature of these machines, they are only used for berries undergoing processing and are not used for fresh store berries you can buy.

"I really enjoyed it there (Westbury farms). They are an innovative and forward-thinking farm that uses technology and modern practical methods of agriculture. It was really interesting," says Oliver.

Oliver says that the scholarship will allow him to expand the scope of his research. Now looking into new ways of testing the quality of raspberries, and how freezing raspberries with liquid nitrogen effects the quality of berry.

"In this project I have now broadened it past mechanisation of raspberry harvesting. We're looking into using near infra-red spectroscopy which uses light wavelengths to determine the quality of the raspberry,” says Oliver.

Oliver's project aims to create an instantaneous measurement of Anthocyanin which contributes to the bright red colour of raspberries and their health properties. Measuring anthocyanin may impact on when Raspberries are harvested and allow the sorting of raspberries based on quality to be automated.

This research is relatively new for raspberries and Oliver says that: "it's very much trial and error".

Oliver is completing his final year in a bachelor of agricultural science with honours and says that:

"Agriculture has lots of opportunities. I was interested in science and its applicability to agriculture, I was also interested in the opportunities for careers and employment, not only through industry, but also research, and the opportunity to work and research internationally "

Oliver says that the agricultural courses at the University aren’t just for people with rural backgrounds, but anyone who has a keen interest in science and interested in applying science in a way that increases innovation and efficiency.

As for the future, when Oliver graduates he wishes to continue to help increase production and innovation in the agricultural industry. Hoping to find ways that do this in a sustainable and environmentally friendly method.

Source: University of Tasmania (Andre Abrego)

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