On Tuesday 28th May, NRI convened a one-day seminar at the Produce Quality Centre (PQC) in East Malling, Kent. Experts, academics and representatives from across the soft fruit industry supply chain were invited to discuss current challenges facing the industry and possible solutions for the future.
Organised by NRI’s Dr Lori Fisher and Dr Deborah Rees, the day featured a number of fascinating keynote speakers including Nikki Jennings from the James Hutton Institute who spoke about breeding berries for practical production, Nancy Clark from Amcor who explored the impact of packaging, and Thomas Hoeterickx from Octinion whose ‘Revolution in the Greenhouse’ presentation showed the future of automation for berry harvesting.
NRI’s Dr Richard Colgan showcased essential innovations in post-harvest rapid cooling and how delays can have disastrous effects on the quality of the fruit. He also outlined the delicate balance between cooling the picked berries without drying them out and adversely affecting their quality. There was a working lunch, which provided ample networking opportunities, and delegates rounded off the day with a guided tour of the PQC.
Nestled in the gently rolling hills and lush orchards of north Kent, the PQC is a collaborative venture between NRI and NIAB-EMR (National Institute of Agricultural Botany – East Malling Research), which conducts research into improving crop quality, increasing shelf life and reducing post-harvest losses. It provided the perfect setting for guests to discuss the challenges facing the soft fruit industry and possible solutions for the future.
With Wimbledon fast approaching it’s a good time to remember just how profitable the Kent berry industry is for the region. Last year a staggering 34,000 kilos of fruit from Kent, was served at the All England Tennis Club to hungry visitors. The seminar was a reminder of the tender care that berries need at all stages of their post-harvest life if they are to arrive at their destination, juicy, fresh and ready to be enjoyed.
Dr Fisher said she was thrilled by the success of the event and summarised by saying: ‘‘Events like this which allow academia and industry to come together are vital. It’s imperative we include everyone along the supply chain if we are going to effectively reduce the sector’s environmental impact whilst continuing to ensure top quality fruit and reduce food waste. It was great to hear directly where they need the research to support them and very rewarding to hear all the excited conversations during lunch stimulated by our excellent speakers.’’
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