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AUSTRALIA : Picking mangoes at night works for Northern Territory mango farm, despite bats and bugs

NT Country Hour By Daniel Fitzgerald

Updated about 9 hours ago

Picking fruit during the cooler temperatures of night is having benefits for a Northern Territory mango company, despite challenges with bats and bugs.

00:00 AUDIO: Lindsay Hewitt talks about picking mangoes at night(ABC Rural)

Piñata Farms has picked all its mangoes at night this season, after successful trials last year.

Mango production manager, Lindsay Hewitt spoke to ABC Rural at the company's Mataranka orchard as the 10:00pm to 7:00am picking shift began.

He said picking in the cooler night-time temperatures helped to prevent an issue known as under-skin browning.

"It's a brown mark that shows up on the fruit when it gets to the marketplace," he said.

"From a lot of trials we have done we found out that by picking at night, when it is cooler, it greatly reduces the chance of getting under-skin browning.

"[It is also] better on the fruit. It has a better glow about it, it is better for being picked in the cool weather."

PHOTO: Mangoes rolling into a container after being picked at night in Mataranka. (ABC Rural: Daniel Fitzgerald)

Mr Hewitt said picking at night also provided more comfortable working conditions, avoiding the hot, humid days of the Top End build-up.

"We know it gets up to 50 degrees here in the orchard, at night time it usually gets back to about 24 degrees so it is a lot nicer to be out here," he said.

"It is obviously challenging for us to all get enough rest during the day, we need to have good air-conditioned accommodation to sleep during the day when it is hot."

However working at night was not without its own difficulties.

Thousands of bats invaded the orchard after sunset, flying in front of vehicles and getting in the way of tractors carrying fruit bins.

Despite their large numbers, Mr Hewitt said the bats were doing little damage to the fruit.

"It is more of an issue keeping the bats away from our workers," he said.

"Not so much on the picking machines but on the tractors and vehicles driving around because they take off out of the trees when we drive along the rows."

Mr Hewitt said there was little he could do to remove the bats from the trees, with workers resorting to blowing ute and tractor horns to scare them away while driving.

Workers sometimes had to deal with insects, attracted to the strong lights of the mango picking machines and the torches strapped to the heads of pickers.

"Occasionally they come in at night, they come in for an hour then go again, but most of the time it is pretty good," Mr Hewitt said.

"We are strip picking everything. If they see a mango, they are picking it,"
Mr Hewitt said.

"With the lighting we have, the fruit really stands out ... they don't miss too many at all."

To ensure safety, Mr Hewitt said all workers were required to wear reflective clothing, with reflective stickers placed on all equipment and fruit bins.

"The pickers tend not to leave the machines much because the light is there where the machine is," he said.

"It is a bit more challenging because it is dark, but with everything marked it is quite safe.

"It works well for us but it does not suit all people. I don't think everyone will go to [picking at night] but I think a few people might try it."

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