AUSTRALIA : Night picking improves fruit quality for mango producer Piñata Farms on its Northern Territory properties
PHOTO: Picking at night on one of Piñata Farms' Northern Territory orchards this season. (Piñata Farms)
Mango producer Piñata Farms started picking at night on its Northern Territory farms in Katherine and Mataranka this season, with the help of new harvest aids.
Night picking was made possible by three new machines designed by Piñata Farms in conjunction with an agricultural engineering firm for a cost of $190,000 each.
Seven LED lights on the harvest aids worked to light up the mango trees as the pickers worked their way down the rows of the orchards.
Staff worked shifts from 10PM to 7AM.
Lindsay Hewitt, mango production manager for Piñata Farms, says harvesting at night when the fruit is cooler produced better quality.
"Instead of being 50 degrees when we pick the fruit, [the temperature] comes down a lot at night time," he said.
"It's also better on the pickers.
"The fruit actually stands out very well at night under light."
"We found it better picking at night, in that the pickers miss less fruit than what they did in the day because [the fruit] stood out so much better."
Piñata Farms also grow mangoes in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia, but Mr Hewitt says, at the moment, night harvesting will only take place in the Northern Territory.
The new machines are larger than typical mango harvest aids and allow up to 10 workers to pick fruit on both sides of the machine.
"We've built [them] to handle a lot more fruit because we've got a lot more pickers," Mr Hewitt said.
"In a day we can pick, depending on the tree size and the crop load, up to 70 bins a day.
"On our single sided, [older] machines that we have, we would have five pickers and they would pick maybe 20 [bins per day]."
Mr Hewitt says the new harvest aids have also reduced handling and damage to the mangoes during picking, ensuring high quality fruit.
"We built these machines because we wanted to have a lot softer harvesting for our fruit," Mr Hewitt said.
"We find it is susceptible to getting damage, so made it so we handle the fruit less and as soft as possible.
"[The fruit gets] picked off the tree by hand and then it doesn't touch another set of hands until it is in the packing shed.
"All the fruit is placed on the conveyors, so that [the fruit] is not thrown or handled roughly in any way."
PHOTO: Piñata Farms' mango trees in Katherine NT, which have been pruned after the end of harvest. (Daniel Fitzgerald)