Post harvest Fresh produce packaging app for audits, recalls, automatic fresh produce inventory Fresh produce packaging for packers and processors of fresh produce.  Post harvest Fresh produce packaging software for for fresh produce packing, processing, export/import, sales – for fruit, vegetable, seafood packers.

99% less fresh produce packing waste

Accurate fresh produce & food inventory management reduces waste through better FIFO stock rotation, stock-takes, and inventory alerts. RFID pallet control (optional) for precision inventory tracking. 

Save time packing fruit & vegetables

Increase the efficiency of fresh produce inventory using options like scanning incoming bar-codes to reduce data entry & errors, integrate with scales for automatic weighing, ore RFID for automatic fresh produce inventory tracking.

Better fresh produce quality control

Guarantee the quality of your fresh produce packing with flexible fresh QC testing systems from your phone or tablet. Customer feedback management, supplier quality control and more...

Reduce fresh produce packing errors & control production

Project required inventory (and shortages), schedule orders to be packed in batches , automatic alerts to prodution line managers.

100% accurate fresh produce order shipping

Shipping teams are guided through the dispatch process from picking using a phone or tablet (optional bar-code scanning), automatic picking, thru bill of lading, invoice, and automatic shipping notifications for customers, transport, and sales teams.

Reduce fresh produce packing administration costs by 40%

Automatic generation of fresh produce labels, bill of lading, invoice, picking documents and more; reduces administrative burden.

Easy audit & recall systems reduces compliance costs.

Faster fresh produce inventory storage  inventory

Accurate fresh produce & food inventory management delivers reduced waste and increased employee productivity. Manage FIFO, improve stock-take accuracy, scan harvester data, and keep a watchful eye on your inventory... Easy stock-take identifies shrinkage and helps reduce waste from ageing. 

100% accurate fresh produce Fresh produce packaging

Maintain strict fresh produce Fresh produce packaging and high food safety standards always. Perform recalls based on lot/batch, pack date, invoice #, inventory #, pallet #, delivery date, purchase order #, or perform a recall on your own user defined data. Perform instant recalls both up and down the supply chain. Makes audits easy and instant. COVID-19 food safety & auditing available. 

Reduce fresh produce waste by 99%

Fresh produce packaging ensures there is no 'shrinkage', food inventory is FIFO managed, and expiring inventory always monitored.

Reduce administration time by 60%

Automatic paperwork, labels, and reporting reduces the burden on administration teams and saves everyone's time.

Better fresh produce quality now

Quality control and food safety has never been easier with industry standard quality tests, food safety checklists; or configure your own tests. 

100% accurate orders!

Guarantee only the correct inventory is shipped for each order, on time, every time.

Post harvest Fresh produce packaging software for audits, recalls, automatic fresh produce inventory Fresh produce packaging for packers and processors of fresh produce.   Post harvest Fresh produce packaging software for for fresh produce packing, processing, export/import, sales – for fruit, vegetable, seafood packers.

Farmsoft fresh produce Fresh produce packaging is for fruit & vegetable packer, processor, import/export.  Full fresh produce Fresh produce packaging, auditing, Fresh produce packaging, and fresh produce business management app.

Quality inspection for fresh produce

Consistent and accurate quality control ensures higher customer satisfaction and adherence to industry, de-facto, and in-house quality control standards. Track supplier quality performance, customer feedback & complaints, create QC tests for any part of the fresh produce & food manufacturing process (incoming goods, raw materials, finished goods, expiry test, export/shipping tests), daily factory hygiene, machinery calibration, employee checklists... 

Fresh produce logistics

Manage orders, pack to order, picking and auto picking, dispatch & shipping process. Generate invoices, bill of lading, pick slips, export documentation and other sales documents... Dispatch teams are guided through the dispatch process ensuring every order is filled perfectly, and on time. Paperwork such as BOL, freight documents, export documents are automatically generated based on the customer and destination to guarantee no rejected shipments or issues at borders.

Fresh produce labels

Generate fresh produce SSCC pallet labels, GS1 case & PTI labels, bin labels, batch labels, traded unit labels, harvest labels and more. Use the built in industry standard labels for Walmart, Woolworths, Aldi, Tesco, Loblaws etc - or design your own with the built in label & report designer. Our team can design all of your fresh produce documents to ensure farmsoft matches your requirements perfectly.

Fresh produce packing control

Sales, Quality, Profit, Dispatch, Pack, Farm...... Dashboards for sales teams provide instant impressions of customer orders and current inventory levels. The dispatch dashboard helps plan shipments, order of loading, and transport companies & drivers... The Profit analysis dashboard shows margins per unit and most profitable customers. Use our API to access your data however you like.

Fresh produce batch packing

Project required raw materials needed to pack/manufacture orders, potential shortages, schedule multiple orders to be packed in batches on selected production lines with a few clicks, automatically send new job alerts to managers, schedule additional harvests, analyze outstanding orders. Manage entire packing and manufacturing process with ease.

Fresh produce alerts monitoring

Automatic alerts for shipments can be sent to customers, transport providers, or even team members. Every time a batch is finished processing, receive an alert with the pack-out breakdown and percentages of grades & quality and waste. Alerts can include simple shipment notifications, or even invoices and original order details. Other alerts include order changes/modifications, yield reports, new order alerts, and low inventory alerts... 

Farm app option

Implement the farmsoft Farm Management suite to provide a comprehensive integrated business management solution from seed to plate. Includes automatic task management, best practices, budgeting, farm inventory, PHI enforcement, audits, residue reporting, USDA reporting, dashboards, recalls and more... 

Fresh produce supplier quality control

Suppliers must know that your business is measuring and tracking their performance. Any trends that effect the quality of fresh produce can be quickly detected, automatically traced back to the fresh produce supplier (especially if a result of a customer complaint / feedback), management and purchasing teams are automatically alerted when a supplier quality issue happens. Quantify your suppliers quality using the Supplier Quality Dashboard. 

Fresh produce finance apps

Share data with your Xero finance app, Quickbooks, MYOB, SAGE, using our API, or request our team perform a custom integration for your fresh produce company. This is an optional module, please ask your consultant for additional details and discuss your specific requirements, additional costs will apply for integration with your chosen finance app. 

Fresh produce RFID

Automatic tracking of each pallet’s exact location. Makes loading orders accurate and easy, stops errors during shipping. Very low costs to setup your hardware using farmsoft’s innovative RFID for fresh produce solution. Pallets put onto truck are auto added to order, and checked for accuracy. Pick up a pallet and its RFID instantly selected. Add pallet/bin to production line and its auto added to batch for Fresh produce packaging.

Fresh produce API

Integrate with virtually any other app or software solution using the farmsoft API. It's open! Anyone can use it. Your in house I.T. team, or any external I.T. vendor you want to help you with integration. Add your own reports, extract special data, or even create new interfaces between farmsoft and any app such as accounting, payroll, B2B, B2C. Other integration in farmsoft includes the ability to integrate with selected weigh scales to capture fresh produce net delivery weights.

Fresh produce bloch-chain

Increase customer confidence and prove the credentials of your Fresh produce packaging integrity and transparency with block-chain ledger technology.   We use the blockchain solution. (Optional module not included with standard Packing / Food Manufacturing ERP solution).

Improve fresh produce production planning

Efficient management customer orders, and the ability to analyze orders gives you new production planning tolls in farmsoft. Ensure each order is filled to exact specifications, on time, every time. Increase customer satisfaction and retention, and reduce stress in the packhouse with confident production planning using work orders/batch orders, sales contracts, sales orders, and sales order items. Are you manufactruing or processing chili products? Try farmsoft for chili processing. 

Accurate fresh produce Fresh produce packaging

Quality officers are guided through the quality control process, presented with images and instructions for each test, ensuring they know what to look for at all times, corrective actions are presented if a quality issue is detected. This makes training new fresh produce quality control officers fast, and ensures consistency in the quality control management processes for incoming fresh produce, post pack/post processing, storage, and dispatch. 

Efficient use of fresh produce cold stores

Maximize your cold store use and rotation of stock using farmsoft's pallet maps, and precision Fresh produce packaging tracking with expiring inventory reminders.
Cold store management software for fruit importers, exporters, packers, cross docking, and short and long term fruit storage.

Post harvest Fresh produce packaging software for audits, recalls, automatic fresh produce inventory Fresh produce packaging for packers and processors of fresh produce.  Post harvest Fresh produce packaging software for for fresh produce packing, processing, export/import, sales – for fruit, vegetable, seafood packers.

The farmsoft Fresh produce packaging app provides business wide quality management inspection systems for fresh produce, food manufacturing, seed processing, meat packing & processing, and flower packing.

Tesco food safety compliance food packers
Tesco food safety compliance for food manufacturers, packers, import, export, wholesale.  Tesco customers expect us to only sell products made to the highest quality and that are responsibly sourced. They trust us to ensure that all our products are safe and comply with all the applicable laws and regulations.

Within Tesco we have a number of highly skilled teams and colleagues across the globe that are dedicated to ensuring our customer expectations are not only met but exceeded. They manage the quality of products from the original product concept right through to our stores and customers.
Although this page is based on our UK business, a similar approach is taken across our international markets whilst ensuring all legal and cultural differences are acknowledged and catered for.  Through understanding customers and their needs, product and market trends our expert team of developers work hard to bring great quality, innovative and value for money products to the market; our dedicated team of food researchers and chefs constantly review food trends and bring new food ideas to life to meet those customer needs.
Fresh Produce Bar Code Scanning

Fresh produce bar code scanning in agriculture easily delivers improved Fresh produce packaging in the fruit boxing and fresh produce packing space.  The FarmSoft team has add new features to the FarmSoft packhouse mobile (smart phone, iphone, tablets, and PDA’s) interfaces and new interfaces for in line bar-code scanning to allow rapid recording of packed fruit and vegetable via bar-code systems. Implement FarmSoft to make your fresh produce fruit packing easier and more efficient. FarmSoft delivers bar code scanning for packing sheds, packhouses, and fruit packers, exporters, importers and wholesalers.

FarmSoft fresh produce bar code scanning allows users to choose from a mobile interface that allows smartphones and PDA devices to scan boxed and packed fresh produce to record pallet contents. Fresh produce inventory and stock management with bar code systems ensures Fresh produce packaging and accuracy. FarmSoft’s bar code software for pack sheds makes fresh produce Fresh produce packaging easy.

Bar-code Fresh produce packaging

FarmSoft bar code Fresh produce packaging is rapid to implement, and easy to maintain. Implementing FarmSoft bar code Fresh produce packaging for fresh produce processing delivers increased accuracy of Fresh produce packaging, easy inventory management, and can result in reduced fresh produce waste.
FarmSoft bar code Fresh produce packaging provides multiple fruit labeling solutions which can be tailored to meet client inventory handling requirements.
Bar code Fresh produce packaging
FarmSoft bar code Fresh produce packaging provides a comprehensive fruit Fresh produce packaging system for packhouses, pack sheds, and fruit and vegetable processors. FarmSoft bar code Fresh produce packaging makes fresh produce inventory handling easy! Contact FarmSoft today to receive these benefits.
Case level Fresh produce packaging

Case level Fresh produce packaging brings fresh produce processors, packers, and marketers easy and rapid Fresh produce packaging. Implement FarmSoft in no time at all, and start reducing processing waste!  Easy to deploy, farmsoft case level Fresh produce packaging is the best friend of any company looking to improve Fresh produce packaging in their food / fresh produce processing enterprise. Farmsoft delivers tangible improvements in food safety compliance and standards maintenance. Implementing farmsoft case level Fresh produce packaging for fresh produce processing delivers increased accuracy of Fresh produce packaging, easy inventory management, and can result in reduced fresh produce waste.

Farm to fork Fresh produce packaging for reliable food safety and best handling practices for fresh produce – while reducing waste and increasing efficiency!  FarmSoft’s farm to fork Fresh produce packaging solution delivers bullet proof fresh produce Fresh produce packaging management in every way. FarmSoft’s farm to fork Fresh produce packaging solution channels staff through the correct farming and fresh produce handling processes ensuring maximum food safety and Fresh produce packaging is being maintained at all times.

Combine both FarmSoft Farm Software AND FarmSoft Fruit Fresh produce packaging to create a complete farm to fork Fresh produce packaging solution.
In addition to the Fresh produce packaging features of FarmSoft, the system also provides a comprehensive fresh produce business management suite that takes care of every section of your business including: quality control, invoice, dispatch, sales, contracts, staff labor, packing labor, packhouse reporting and more.

Fresh Produce Fresh produce packaging India – FarmSoft’s fresh produce management software brings new levels of Fresh produce packaging and efficiency to Indian farming and fresh produce packing, processing, and exporting.  FarmSoft guides users through the fresh produce handling procedures to ensure the safest, highest quality fruit and vegetables with minimum waste. From quality control, waste analysis, to fresh produce labeling – FarmSoft delivers for professional fruit and vegetable processors and packers. Download FarmSoft’s Fresh Produce Fresh produce packaging India specifications here.

FarmSoft India
Professionally manage and monitor all post harvest processes including quality control, storage, inventory, sorting, grading, washing, packing, sales, invoice, and dispatch.
Traceability requirements matrix fresh produce

Traceability requirements matrix fresh produce packing, processing, value adding.   Traceability requirements matrix fresh produce
Traceability requirements matrix in fresh produce

EASY Fresh produce packaging
Makes fresh inventory food safety compliance & audits easy.
Traceability requirements matrix fresh produce
Traceability requirements matrix fresh produce.
Blockchain for fresh produce Fresh produce packaging

Visit our official fresh produce blockchain site for the latest fresh produce blockchain information.
Ask your farmsoft consultant if your chosen block-chain protocol or format is supported.
Blockchain – Essential for Fresh Produce Fresh produce packaging
The Produce Fresh produce packaging Initiative, was designed to help the Produce Industry maximize the effectiveness of current traceback procedures, while developing a standardized industry approach to enhance the speed and efficiency.
Food Fresh produce packaging Software

FarmSoft food Fresh produce packaging software delivers bulletproof food safety and reduces business risk.  The FarmSoft is built on a solid platform of food Fresh produce packaging and safety standards. FarmSoft guides users through the food processing and manufacturing phases. The FarmSoft food Fresh produce packaging software suite specializes in processing and manufacturing involving fresh produce, fruit, and vegetables. Dried, cured, juiced, pulped, or even made into value added jelly and jams. Click here to download food Fresh produce packaging software specifications.

Fresh Produce Fresh produce packaging Bar-code

Fresh Produce Fresh produce packaging Bar-codes for fruit & vegetable packers, processors, and food manufacturers.  Fresh Produce Fresh produce packaging is much more than applying a label to the packed fruit or vegetable. FarmSoft delivers strict fresh produce Fresh produce packaging guidelines for supply chain end to end food safety & transparency.

Ensuring that the Fresh produce packaging chain has no gaps in it is important to reduce the risk exposure of your business. If there is a breach in the Fresh produce packaging chain, then the whole Fresh produce packaging enforcement system has failed and becomes a pointless expense. FarmSoft ensures 100% accuracy of Fresh produce packaging throughout the entire life-cycle of fresh produce, from pre-planting, to post sales Fresh produce packaging guideline adherence. FarmSoft ensures your business is not unnecessarily exposed, while minimizing compliance costs. 

GS1 Fresh produce packaging for fresh produce

FarmSoft GS1 Fresh produce packaging system does much more than just print labels! Manage your inventory, maintain Fresh produce packaging, pack, process, and store fresh produce. Perform sales and dispatch and invoicing. Reduce fresh produce waste.  FarmSoft GS1 Fresh produce packaging system does much more than just print labels! Manage your inventory, maintain Fresh produce packaging, pack, process, and store fresh produce. Perform sales and dispatch and invoicing. Reduce fresh produce waste.
farmsoft makes fresh produce GS1 Fresh produce packaging easy!
Increase the efficiency of fresh produce deliveries using options like scanning incoming bar-codes to reduce data entry, save time, and reduce errors. Scan incoming fresh produce deliveries or use "one touch" rapid inventory creation screens to increase accuracy & reduce data entry time.

FarmSoft track and trace provides end to end supply chain transparency for fresh produce Fresh produce packaging. Implement FarmSoft to guarantee the highest level of Fresh produce packaging both up and down the supply chain!  FarmSoft track and trace is a comprehensive fresh produce business management solution that caters for all operational processes from quality control, inventory, sales, dispatch, and orders. FarmSoft even provides food manufacturing, good manufacturing management, and value adding features. FarmSoft track and trace software provides many innovative features to bring easily maintained benefits to the fresh produce processor, packer, and marketer.

Using the FarmSoft Fresh produce packaging code, customers, and end consumers can track and trace fresh produce simply by scanning a QR code with their smartphone. The track and trace system will then present the customer/end consumer with the Fresh produce packaging or marketing information as chosen by the packer. This helps to improve customer confidence and provides supply chain transparency to promote the concept of food safety.
Produce Fresh produce packaging Initiative PTI

Produce Fresh produce packaging Initiative (PTI), HACCP, GlobalGAP, CanGAP, EuroGAP, BRC, Bio-Terrorism, ISO and more…Simple PTI solution - software for fruit and vegetable processing

Farmsoft delivers opportunities to reduce waste during the packing, processing, storage, and distribution phases. By enforcing best practices, FIFO (when practical), inventory expiry monitoring, and easy stock takes - your company has every opportunity to minimize waste and maximize profit. From bar code managed inventory, inventory labeling, to 3D pallet storage, farmsoft delivers on reduced waste.
Perform recalls in seconds, with the full confidence of accuracy and reliability. Minimize risk by ensuring accurate Fresh produce packaging is automatically captured. Pass audits with ease & reduce compliance costs using farmsofts Fresh produce packaging guidelines. Trace fresh produce up and down the supply chain, over multiple Fresh produce packaging hops. Instantly produce spray records, residue analysis, soil analysis, and any other farm Fresh produce packaging records if you use our farm solution.

Inventory Fresh produce packaging software for reduced post harvest waste

Inventory Fresh produce packaging software
The purpose of the Fruit & Vegetables implementation guidance is to provide best practice guidelines for industry-wide adoption for New Item Listing and update of existing assortment. This guide provides support to companies seeking to electronically exchange fruit & vegetable product information in accordance with GS1 Standards. The guidance applies to the full range of fruit & vegetable trade items. The guide outlines which attributes should be used for fruit & vegetable items and recommends best practices for the use of these standards to exchange static fruit & vegetable data between suppliers and retailers. Today, different platforms as well as different means to item identification exist when it comes to data sharing. Fresh produce packaging case study for Paramount Citrus, Fresh produce packaging case study for Mother Earth Organic Mushrooms, SunFed visibility of produce throughout supply chain with case and item level Fresh produce packaging. JemD Farms, greenhouse grower with GS1 Standards and the Produce Fresh produce packaging Initiative.
The use of GS1 Standards, specifically for Identification, Master Data Alignment, Fresh produce packaging, Track and Trace, Barcode labels and EDI transactions, provides a common platform to help supply.
Simple Fresh produce packaging solution

Simple Fresh produce packaging solution - software for fruit and vegetable packing
Processors and packers involved in the fresh produce industry deal with a lot of compliance and Fresh produce packaging issues. If the worst happens and a product recall needs to be effected immediately, they have to be able to trace where the raw ingredients of fruit and vegetables came from, what was done to them, when and where the finished products have gone.
Fresh produce processors and packers manufacturers are subject to quality audits and they can often practice recalls and food safety incidents. From a business perspective, these activities often can be expensive and cumbersome to comply with, without the use of a simple Fresh produce packaging solution that is integrated into the businesses fresh produce handling processes and guidelines.
As a supplier to the food manufacturing or fresh produce processing or handling and retail industry, quality control and Fresh produce packaging are key for any manufacturer. Farmsoft delivers solutions in Australia, USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Africa, and Asian regions. Use farmsoft to become compliant and increased efficiency.

Less waste, more Fresh produce packaging

Less waste, more Fresh produce packaging: Full featured software for fresh produce processing, packing, sales, export/import & distribution.  MINIMIZE FRESH PRODUCE WASTE

For handlers of perishable goods, reduce waste during packing, processing, cold store, order picking and dispatch phases. Enforce GMP and best practices, FIFO (when practical), inventory expiry monitoring, and easy stock takes to help minimize waste and maximise profit. Receive detailed alerts when waste is encountered through quality issues, or possible human error.
Learn more about farmsoft post harvest solutions
Manage your fruit & vegetable packing / processing operation with a simple Fresh produce packaging solution, or implement a comprehensive enterprise management solution. Easily comply with standards for Walmart, Tesco, Woolworths, Aldi, Loblaw, Coles, USDA, FSMA, GFSI, AANZFTA, PTI, HACCP - for full inventory Fresh produce packaging using PC/Mac or Fresh produce packaging app.
MORE Fresh produce packaging!

Fresh produce export documentation

Farmsoft makes fresh produce export documentation easy with new features that generate international standard fresh produce export documentation for fresh produce producers, processors, and packers.   Rapidly generate fresh produce export documentation on demand!

Farmsoft makes fresh produce export documentation easy with new features that generate international standard fresh produce export documentation for fresh produce producers, processors, and packers. The modern packing and processing facility is busy environment. Dealing with the excess of export regulations and paperwork requirements can often be a headache. Farmsoft guides users through the documentation process, reducing administration costs, and increasing productivity.
Contact a farmsoft consultant today to discuss your fresh produce export documentation options today.
Farmsoft takes the effort out of preparing fresh produce export documentation for fruit, vegetable, coffee, hop, and grain producers by generating commonly used export documentation.  

Reduce fresh produce waste, Orders - Quality - Production - Sales & shipping - Recalls & audits - Dashboards, analysis, business intelligence.   Reduce fresh produce waste, make production and shipments 100% accurate

Strict inventory management ensures FIFO and no orphaned fresh produce inventory, no loss of inventory due handling processes.
Production management ensures every order is filled accurately, dispatch is planned in advance, and correct shipments dispatched on time, every time.
Sales dashboards help marketing and sales teams plan orders, schedule production, and identify any fresh produce that needs to be sold before it becomes waste.
A choice of interfaces to suit every environment gives your team a simple fresh produce business management tool.
Manage fresh produce inventory stored at an unlimited number of sites / packhouses, and unlimited warehouses
Manage and monitor the storage and status (ie: in processes such as sorting, grading, cooling, ripening etc) of all fresh produce inventory, regardless of its state.

Over 47,000 farms in the state of Florida produce nearly 300 different commodities, most of which are considered specialty crops, defined as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticultural, and nursery crops. In Florida, agriculture is a $2 billion per year industry. The state ranks first in the United States in total value of production for oranges ($1.5 billion), grapefruit ($187 million), and watermelons ($138 million). Florida also ranks first in the total value of production for many vegetables such as snap beans ($167 million), fresh market cucumbers ($67 million), sweetcorn ($180 million), and fresh market tomatoes ($268) (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services 2013). The value of these crops is an important component of the well-being of the state's producers and also to Florida's economy. The most recent United States Census of Agriculture (2014) revealed that 93.3% of farms in Florida had less than $250,000 in gross receipts, qualifying them as small farms according to the United States Department of Agriculture. For small farmers, delivering fresh, high-quality produce presents significant challenges in regards to handling, storage, and packaging. These challenges may be caused by a lack of access to financial capital, information and knowledge, and proper equipment. To ensure that product quality is maintained throughout the distribution environment, guidelines regarding short-term postharvest storage, packaging, and handling are necessary.

For producers, the fruits of their labor culminate with a specific process each season depending on the crop, cultivar, and various environmental conditions. This process, known as the harvest, is the gathering of mature crops or yield from one growing season. The harvest marks the end of the growing season and represents significant social importance to communities as they celebrate its arrival each year. However, harvest time also creates challenges for producers trying to deliver fresh, high-quality produce to market. If not dealt with correctly, these challenges become barriers within the distribution chain, resulting in loss of revenue. Optimum postharvest practices for a given commodity serve to establish appropriate cold chains that maintain optimal temperatures, relative humidity, and slowing of respiration rates and ethylene production while utilizing appropriate packaging and following safety and sanitation protocols.

Indeed, it is the postharvest handling activities that maintain fruit quality as fresh produce travels throughout the supply chain. However, depending on the size of the farming operation and its economic situation, different specific practices are most appropriate to achieve these ends. The objective of this publication is to provide postharvest storage, packaging, and handling recommendations for small farm specialty crop producers that sell directly to consumers and through institutional marketing channels such as schools that participate in Farm to School (F2S) programs. These programs benefit children by providing them with healthy, nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables while offering producers alternative marketing opportunities and reducing price uncertainty.

Regardless of where a product is sold, proper handling and food safety practices must be observed. With these considerations, this publication serves as a general guideline for small farm specialty crop producers involved in the short-term storage, packaging, and handling of a variety of specialty crops commonly grown within the state of Florida. The recommendations in this publication are not intended to replace a comprehensive postharvest food safety plan.

Fruit and vegetable growers work diligently to ensure that they bring the best quality products to market. They possess the necessary skills to improve the value of their crops during the growing season. However, once the harvest begins, good postharvest handling practices must be used to safeguard the product throughout the distribution environment. According to Watkins and Nock (2012), the primary objective of postharvest handling is to maintain quality by

reducing metabolic rates that result in undesirable changes in color, composition, texture, flavor and nutritional status, and undesirable growth such as sprouting or rooting;
reducing water loss that results in wilting, shriveling, softening, and loss of salable weight and crispness;
minimizing bruising, friction damage, and other mechanical injuries;
reducing spoilage caused by decay, especially of damaged or wounded tissues, and preventing contamination by human pathogens that can cause food poisoning; and
preventing development of freezing injury or physiological disorders, such as chilling injury or senescent (i.e., aging-related) disorders.
In practice, "products must be harvested at optimum maturity or quality, handled carefully to avoid mechanical injury, cooled quickly to remove field heat, stored in modified atmospheres if appropriate for the product, and maintained at acceptable temperatures during storage, distribution and marketing"(Watkins and Nock 2012, 12).

Products should always be harvested, if possible, when they are free of moisture, or they should be immediately dried off after harvest. Prolonged wetness almost always leads to a wide range of problems, such as excessive decay, mold, and cosmetic blemishes that render the product unsalable. Proper ventilation and maintaining proper relative humidity during storage are essential to maintaining the highest possible postharvest quality.

A fruit is the mature ovary of a plant, whereas a vegetable is considered the edible portion of an herbaceous plant, such as the leaf, stem, root, tuber, bulb, immature fruit, or flower. Some fruits are commonly referred to and marketed as vegetables. Examples of ripe fruits typically categorized as vegetables are tomato, pepper, and acorn squash, and examples of immature fruits categorized as vegetables are okra, summer squash, and snap bean. Normally, fruit are regarded as fleshy, sweet structures with seeds, whereas vegetables are other edible parts of the plant. Many times plants may be categorized as a fruit or a vegetable such as with tomato. It often depends on whether a plant is described in biological terms or is being used for culinary purposes. Producers are often concerned with the quality of their crops and the development of horticulturally mature fruits and vegetables. As a result, this guide will refer to fruits and vegetables in regards to the biological processes that affect their quality and not in reference to their culinary meaning. The term "horticulturally mature" means that the plant organ has developed to whatever stage is typically most desirable for human consumption. For the purpose of this guide, fruits and vegetables are considered to be the horticulturally mature, edible portions of a plant intended for distribution.

Fruits are classified in terms of two categories, (1) climacteric and (2) nonclimacteric fruits and vegetables, based on differences in their patterns of respiration and ethylene production that impact their optimum postharvest handling practices (Rees et. al 2012). Climacteric fruits are those whose ripening is accompanied by a distinguishable increase in the respiration rate and is generally associated with elevated ethylene production, ethylene being the natural ripening hormone in plants. After the respiration and ethylene production rates peak (the climacteric peaks), both decrease significantly. Examples of climacteric fruits commonly grown in Florida are tomatoes, avocados, peaches, and muskmelons. Nonclimacteric fruits do not exhibit this behavior; but rather, the respiration rate undergoes a gradual decline during ripening and aging, and there is no increase in ethylene. Examples of nonclimacteric fruits commonly grown in Florida are citrus, grapes, strawberries, peppers, and watermelons.

The respiration rate differs markedly among different fruits and vegetables, reflecting the intensity of the metabolic processes that they are undergoing (Saltveit 2004). Thus, the respiration rate is strongly related to the relative perishability of different crops, with those harvested when fully mature tending to be less perishable than those harvested when immature and undergoing rapid developmental changes. Temperature, in addition to stage of development, strongly influences plant metabolism, and thus respiration rate. Respiration rates are also strikingly elevated when stress or physical injury is inflicted on the product. As seen in Figure 1, the respiration rate, as measured by carbon dioxide production, increases during ripening in climacteric fruits before reaching a peak and ultimately entering a post-climacteric decline. Nonclimacteric fruits and vegetables do not undergo this process.

Figure 1. Climacteric and nonclimacteric patterns of respiration in ripening fruit.
Figure 1. Climacteric and nonclimacteric patterns of respiration in ripening fruit.
Credit: Adapted from Salveit (2004).
As a general rule, horticultural maturity of climacteric fruits occurs when they are mature enough to be ripened off the plant with acceptable quality (from the pre-climacteric minimum shown in Figure 1 onward). Although climacteric fruits can be left to ripen on the plant, they often are not because the ripe fruit is more difficult to handle successfully. On the other hand, nonclimacteric fruits will not ripen once picked and therefore must be allowed to ripen on the plant before harvest.

Because of their ripening behavior, when climacteric fruits can be harvested mature but unripe, the onset of ethylene production and ripening rate is delayed, and the fruit can be stored for extended periods of time or transported over relatively long distances. Some fruits are exposed to ethylene gas to initiate more uniform ripening (e.g., tomato) or to enhance fruit color (as in the degreening of citrus). Not all climacteric fruits benefit from being harvested mature but unripe. Blueberries—although climacteric, must ripen fully on the plant to attain acceptable flavor. Employing these strategies with climacteric fruits can prove to be advantageous when products require longer storage durations, transportation over great distances, or when growers want to take advantage of favorable market conditions.

The storage life of commodities varies inversely with the respiration rate, which itself increases with an increase in temperature. In other words, the higher the temperature, the greater the respiration rate, and the more rapidly the commodity deteriorates, which reduces shelf life. The respiration rates for a given temperature and the ethylene production for selected Florida-grown commodities are listed in Table 2. Higher-ethylene-producing commodities such as avocadoes should not be stored near ethylene-sensitive crops, such as broccoli, celery, or watermelons, or any unripe climacteric fruits that one wishes to keep from ripening. Similarly, commodities that produce medium or moderate amounts of ethylene, such as tomatoes or cantaloupes, should be kept away from ethylene-sensitive commodities. In USDA Handbook 66, Salveit (2004) provides a summary of respiration rates for nearly all fruits and vegetables over a range of temperatures and indicates their relative ethylene production rates.

Florida's mild winter temperatures allow for the cultivation of fruit and vegetable crops when other production areas in the country are not yet viable. Warm temperatures are required for production, but they can be detrimental to commodities during postharvest handling, promoting spoilage, waste, and ultimately a loss of revenue.

In fresh food systems, "maintaining the cold chain" is a term used to describe the management of temperature during postharvest handling. Among the various factors that affect the quality of fresh produce, temperature is without a doubt the most important. According to Kader (2002), "temperature management is the most effective tool for extending the shelf life of fresh horticultural commodities."

Upon harvest, products should be cooled to their optimum storage temperature range as quickly as possible for optimum postharvest quality. Failing to cool products will increase the rate of respiration and thus the rate of senescence, or aging, and related deterioration. Methods for rapidly cooling fresh fruits and vegetables to remove field heat and the appropriateness of the different methods for various commodities are described later in this guide. According to Nunes and Emond (2002, 238), "the respiration rate of fresh fruits and vegetables is often used as a predictor of the effect of temperature on the overall metabolism of plant tissue." A value called the Q10 temperature coefficient is often used to characterize these rates of respiration. The Q10 temperature coefficient is a measure of the changes, or rates of reactions, for a biological system as a result of a temperature increase of 10° C. Mathematically, the Q10 value is defined as the following:

In most postharvest applications, the Q10 value is often used as an evaluation method for predicting the effect of a temperature increase on respiration rates and, inversely, on shelf life. Within a temperature range of 5–25°C, the Q10 value for most crops will be around 2.0 to 2.5; however, some highly perishable crops such as sweetcorn and mushrooms have Q10 values of 4 to 5 in the same temperature range. Therefore, if the Q10 is 2.0 to 2.5, for every 10°C increase in temperature, the respiration rate will increase by a factor of 2.0 to 2.5, and the expected shelf life will be 50–60% shorter. If the producer wishes to promote or facilitate fruit ripening, it may be desirable to maintain produce at warmer temperatures, but unless the goal is to speed ripening, warm temperatures should be avoided at all costs.

For small-scale producers, appropriate practices for managing postharvest temperatures can include harvesting crops during cooler times of the day, such as early morning (even before dawn), immediately moving the harvested product out of direct sunlight and, in the absence of refrigeration, quickly transporting the produce to a cool storage area such as an insulated structure. The higher the harvest temperature, and the higher the respiration rate and Q10 of the product, the more critical postharvest temperature management becomes—and the more of a priority it should be for a small farmer to invest in refrigerated storage. With regard to refrigerated storage, small window air conditioning units are relatively inexpensive; therefore, small-scale producers may find it advantageous to purchase a window unit and retrofit one into their storage facilities. These can be used in a variety of buildings such as insulated storage sheds or garages, marine cargo containers, or other similar facilities. Additionally, moisture loss can be mitigated by placing plastic liners over stacked boxes of product.

While changes in temperature will affect the respiration rates of fruits and vegetables, extreme temperatures can also cause physiological damage to fresh horticultural products, depending on the commodity. Commodities vary considerably in their temperature tolerance (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 1989). Symptoms of extreme heat injury in produce include bleaching, surface burning or scalding, uneven ripening, excessive softening, and desiccation (water loss). Higher-than-recommended temperatures may be satisfactory for certain commodities in short-term storage conditions, but over longer terms will almost certainly damage produce. For example, warmer temperatures (with high humidity) may promote healing, such as with storage potatoes, but potato tubers intended for fresh market become extremely susceptible to bacterial soft rot if held at normal late spring or summer-time temperatures. Similarly, for some tropical and subtropical crops, extreme cold temperatures can result in chilling injury. The optimum postharvest temperature for most fruits and vegetables is the lowest temperature that does not freeze the commodity. But some commodities are susceptible to chilling injury, which occurs at temperatures above freezing, but below a characteristic threshold temperature. It is important to know that this injury is cumulative, with multiple low temperature exposures, even before harvest, contributing to development of chilling injury symptoms. Chilling injury symptoms may include pitting, surface decay, internal browning, surface scald, as well as poor flavor, aroma, and color (Wilson, Boyette, and Estes 1999). These symptoms may take some time to develop. For chilling-sensitive crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplants, and citrus fruits, the optimum postharvest temperature shown in Table 1 is the chilling threshold temperature. Recommendations for optimum postharvest temperatures for additional fresh fruits and vegetables can be found in USDA Handbook 66 (United States Department of Agriculture 2014).

There are as many types of packages available as there are products to put in them. Packaging systems are available in a variety of materials such as plastic, corrugated fiberboard, wood, and even sustainable materials such as bioplastics and fibers that decompose. One of the most common plastic packaging containers is the clear clamshell, manufactured from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and other plastics using mechanical or vacuum thermoforming. Although plastic containers are necessary for certain commodities, corrugated and non-corrugated fiberboard is the dominant material used in fresh produce packaging. Wooden containers, usually wirebound, are a traditional form of produce packaging. They are an option for growers, although their use has gradually diminished over time because they are relatively heavy, expensive, and abrasive to the fruits and vegetables, and because they can present disposal issues. Sustainable packaging options are becoming increasingly more common and offer many advantages over traditional packaging containers. While beneficial to some, they are not appropriate for every operation. While there are a variety of functional packaging options available to growers of fresh fruits and vegetables, it is important to select the appropriate format for each specific commodity. Regardless of the material used, for a given commodity, it is important to use standard packaging sizes during the postharvest process so that growers can readily calculate total harvest by weight, count, and volume and thus more easily communicate production volumes to their buyers (Daniels and Slama 2010). Also, some buyers require that packaging footprints conform to the dimensions of the standard grocery pallet, which measures 40 x 48 inches (101.60 x 121.92 cm).

Packaging plays an important role in the fruit and vegetable distribution chain. According to Watkins and Nock (2012), packaging serves four main functions:

Containment. Containment is the basic requirement for movement of a product from one point to another. The package type and size will be a function of the product and market requirements.
Protection and Preservation. Packages provide protection for the product against environmental factors such as dust and water, as well as impact and compression bruising, and friction injuries that can occur during handling and transport.
Convenience. Products are packaged in sizes convenient for handlers and for the consumer. Consumer packages are often contained within larger containers for transport because of economies of scale. The product may be removed from the container and placed in a display as single consumer units, or repackaged for sale.
Communication. In addition to advertising the type and source of the product, the package lists gross and net package weight, unit size of the product, and any additional information required by government regulations.
Another important feature of packaging for produce is that it should be designed with venting that facilitates cooling and temperature management during storage and transport so that field heat and respiratory heat can be efficiently removed.

Bulk bins allow producers to store, handle, and transport a large amount of product with relative ease. Bulk bins are manufactured from plastic polymers, wood, or corrugated fiberboard. Plastic and wood bulk bins are often only used on the farm because they are quite heavy and bulky (Figure 2). In terms of transportation, this restricts the amount of product available for shipping because each state imposes weight limits on transported goods. All types of bulk bins require heavy lifting equipment, such as forklifts, to move the product from field to packinghouse or storage because the contents often weigh in excess of 1,000 pounds.

Figure 2. Reusable plastic bulk bins (left) and wooden bulk bins (right) are used mostly on farms and at packinghouses.
Figure 2. Reusable plastic bulk bins (left) and wooden bulk bins (right) are used mostly on farms and at packinghouses.
Credit: Mark Ritenour
Despite their weight, bulk bins have many advantages. They allow for easy movement of large quantities of product and are usually stackable. The ability to stack product is oftentimes essential for operations that are limited by the size of their packinghouse or floor space. Bulk bins also eliminate the waste that results from smaller, compartmentalized packaging containers that are single use and require more material to contain the same amount of product. Bulk bins produced from corrugated fiberboard (Figure 3) are typically used by wholesalers, retailers, or other repacking operations because they are lightweight, may be collapsible, and even sometimes reusable. Corrugated fiberboard bulk bins can also have graphics on the side walls that can be customized for a specific commodity or with producer information.

Figure 3. Corrugated fiberboard bulk bins are sometimes used to ship less perishable crops like potatoes or, as shown here, watermelons.
Figure 3. Corrugated fiberboard bulk bins are sometimes used to ship less perishable crops like potatoes or, as shown here, watermelons.
Credit: Jeffrey Brecht
For safety and sanitation, plastic bulk bins are preferred to wooden bulk bins and containers. The plastic surfaces are easier to clean, which should be done after every use. Because of their porous surface, wooden bulk bins and containers are very difficult, if not impossible, to clean and sanitize. If using a wooden container to transport product from the field to the packinghouse, you should wash the product after it has been removed from the wooden bulk bin. Alternatively, plastic liners may be used with wooden bins—both to reduce potential contamination and to minimize abrasion damage to the product from rough wood surfaces. Fasteners such as screws, nails, and bolts can also result in punctured and damaged product, requiring regular inspection of wooden bins. Corrugated fiberboard bins can be used more than once, but are more susceptible to damage than plastic and wooden bins. If reused, these bins should be inspected for cleanliness and covered in a plastic liner after the initial use in order to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Alternatively, if the corrugated fiberboard bin has structural, water, or microbial damage, discard it immediately and use a new container in its place.

When determining whether to use bulk bins, consider the size and scale of an operation, the cost associated with the purchase and maintenance of the bins, as well as the commodity being packed. Smaller operations may have little use for large bulky bins or they may pack product directly into retail containers. Bulk bins, specifically those produced from plastic and wood, may be too expensive for some smaller producers. For commodities that are highly susceptible to bruising and mechanical damage during transportation and handling, the use of bulk bins would be inappropriate. However, other commodities, such as potatoes and watermelon, would be considered ideal candidates for bulk bins because they are able to resist most of the damage that occurs throughout the distribution chain. Considering these choices will help producers determine the best course of action for their specific operational needs.

Throughout history, wood has been used for packaging, transporting, and storing a variety of products, including fresh produce. Because they are porous and absorbent, many believe that wood containers are not hygienic and therefore not suitable for fresh food products. However, it has been shown that certain species of wood, such as oak and pine, exhibit excellent antibacterial properties (Milling, Kehr, Wulf, and Smalla 2005). While wooden wirebound containers will not completely eliminate the risk of product contamination from the spread of microorganisms, if properly maintained, they provide a cost-effective short-term option for packing some commodities. Therefore, wood containers are a viable alternative for packaging, transporting, and storing fresh produce.

Wood containers come with or without handles and in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. Wood containers are available in several forms: barrels, baskets, hampers, or trays. Depending on the container, there may be a weave or specific design that can facilitate airflow for ventilation and rapid cooling. One of the most common forms of wood containers are the 1 1/9-bushel wirebound containers (Figure 4). This type of container is commonly used for commodities such as beans, sweetcorn, and potatoes.

Figure 4. Wooden wirebound produce containers (1 1/9 bushel).
Figure 4. Wooden wirebound produce containers (1 1/9 bushel).
Credit: Mark Ritenour
Wood containers have many advantages that make them an excellent material for fresh produce. Wood containers are sturdy and thus able to endure mechanical stress and support heavier products in stacked loads. Wood containers are reusable if properly handled, maintained, cleaned, and sanitized, providing significant savings for the growers. Compared to fiberboard, wood containers are a better option for products that come into contact with water because they are more resistant to moisture. However, dry wood can absorb moisture from produce, causing items to shrivel when they come into contact with the dry wood. Compared to plastic, wood containers are more affordable and result in significant savings from that of reusable plastic containers (RPCs). Wooden wirebound containers should be packed correctly by an experienced worker; otherwise, overpacking may cause bulging and present problems for transporting. Unfortunately, wood will eventually deteriorate and decay and must be replaced. Depending on the commodity, a wood container may be a good alternative for small farmers who sell locally and can easily retrieve used containers, assuming that the distribution environment, application, and cost factors are also favorable.

Corrugated fiberboard cartons are comprised of a paper-based material manufactured from the Kraft paper pulping process. As seen in Figure 5, corrugated fiberboard cartons are commonly made of single wall design with an inside and outside liner surrounding a fluted medium. The size of the flute determines the thickness of the corrugated fiberboard carton. Double wall and triple wall cartons are sometimes used for heavier and bulkier products because they provide added strength and rigidity. Traditionally, the strength of corrugated fiberboard cartons was measured using a burst test. However, burst tests measure the paper tensile strength whereas the stiffness and compression are typically the more desirable characteristics of corrugated fiberboard cartons. As a result, edge crush compression tests offer more valuable means of determining the performance of a corrugated fiberboard carton under compressive loads, which is important for containers holding products like fruits and vegetables that are commonly stacked.

Figure 5. Corrugated fiberboard cartons for tomatoes.
Figure 5. Corrugated fiberboard cartons for tomatoes.
Credit: Jeffrey Brecht
Some produce is packaged into fiberboard cartons fitted with anti-moisture barriers to prevent the liquids from penetrating the fiberboard. As a result, corrugated fiberboard cartons with anti-moisture barriers are ideal for products that may be exposed to water at some point during postharvest handling. Traditionally, wax has been the primary substance applied to the fiberboard to prevent moisture from either entering or leaving the carton. However, it is rather difficult to recycle corrugated fiberboard that is saturated with wax. RPCs are an alternative method of packaging for a variety of fruits and vegetables, especially those that are commonly exposed to water.

Corrugated fiberboard varies in flute size, burst strength, and edge crush strength, as well as surface treating and coatings. A few examples of products that are packaged into corrugated fiberboard include tomatoes, cucumbers, and sweet peppers; corrugated fiberboard is also used for the master containers of products like strawberries and grape tomatoes that are commonly packed first into plastic clamshells.

Custom-ordered corrugated fiberboard cartons may be too expensive for some producers. However, generic versions are available for lower cost. Some small farmers re-use cartons from larger operations, dismantling them, turning them inside-out to hide the original company's identity, and reconstructing them. This practice is not advised because the corrugated fiberboard cartons are prone to decay and there are food safety risks related to the cross-contamination of microbes carried on the re-used cartons.

Reusable plastic containers (Figure 6) are becoming more prevalent in the fresh produce distribution system because producers and companies are trying to minimize their carbon footprint while simultaneously reducing costs. For many, RPCs have replaced corrugated fiberboard cartons as the preferred container for shipping fresh produce. Reusable plastic containers come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, chosen primarily for their application to a specific commodity. Products that are hydrohandled or hydrocooled are especially suitable for packing in RPCs because RPCs are unaffected by moisture exposure. Reusable plastic containers are more durable and more rigid than their corrugated fiberboard counterparts. They are also weather resistant. As the name implies, RPCs can be utilized over and over again with very little wear, compared to most corrugated fiberboard cartons, which are used only once and then discarded. Most RPCs fold flat to minimize required space for storage and transport. Reusable plastic containers are produced from recyclable polymers, such as polypropylene (PP) or high density polyethylene (HDPE), and therefore can be melted and reformed into new products.

Figure 6. Zucchini summer squash in reusable plastic containers (RPCs).
Figure 6. Zucchini summer squash in reusable plastic containers (RPCs).
Credit: Jeffrey Brecht
RPCs can either be purchased or leased. Depending on the frequency of use, purchased RPCs can provide a significant cost savings over single-use corrugated fiberboard or wooden containers. While the initial cost of purchase and maintenance may seem too expensive, frequent use and economies of scale can allow for lower, long-term savings. Decide whether to use RPCS by considering the size and scale of the farming, packing, or shipping operation and the types of commodities with which the operation deals. Produce handlers must also have either closed distribution systems or return agreements with their receivers in order to utilize purchased RPCs. Otherwise, it will not be possible to recover the RPCs after they have been used (i.e., shipped).

RPCs must be cleaned between each use because residues from previous crops can lead to contamination of new harvests. Adhering to strict sanitization and cleaning procedures is necessary in order to reduce the risk of contamination when RPCs are reused. Chemicals, such as detergents, acids, or alkalis, can be used to remove dust, dirt, product residues, and various other debris items from the surface. Scrubbing while also using chemicals increases the probability of eliminating any contaminants that may lead to foodborne illnesses. Note that cleaning procedures alone cannot guarantee the complete removal of all microorganisms. In order to reduce or eliminate microorganisms, the RPCs must also be treated with sanitizers or disinfectants. Sanitizing agents, such as chlorine-based compounds, iodine compounds, or ammonium compounds, are most often applied to food contact surfaces to destroy or reduce the number of microorganisms.

While RPCs can provide significant savings to some producers, not all operations justify their utilization. The choice to purchase RPCs is dependent on the ability of the handler to maintain and clean those containers. Some producers may have the equipment and capacity to maintain and clean RPCs, while others may not. If a distribution system does not allow a handler's RPCs to be easily recovered, or if cleaning, sanitizing, and maintaining purchased RPCs is not feasible for an operation, then leasing is the better option. Leased RPCs are returned to the supplier by the receiver; the supplier is then responsible for cleaning and sanitizing the containers before reintroducing them into the distribution system. Producers should conduct a thorough cost analysis that considers customer (receiver) buy-in, material requirements, labor, transportation, inspections, maintenance, and cleaning before purchasing RPCs.

Insert trays are used for a variety of reasons when packing fresh produce. Insert trays are typically formed from molded plastic or pulp to create an insert for a master container that has multiple cavities to contain individual fruit (Figure 7). The cavity is designed to accommodate a specific size and/or variety of commodity as well as to maximize the number of fruit per tray. Insert trays are relatively inexpensive, costing only pennies per tray and providing additional protection to the product to minimize damage.

Figure 7. Thermoformed 28-count produce insert tray for peaches.
Figure 7. Thermoformed 28-count produce insert tray for peaches.
Credit: Jeffrey Brecht
Plastic insert trays are usually thermoformed by placing large, heated, pliable sheets of plastic into molds where they conform to a customer's specified dimensions. This process is very similar to clamshell thermoforming. However, the sheets of plastic thermoformed for insert trays are much thinner than those used for clamshells. Plastic insert trays are typically formed from polypropylene (PP). Foam trays manufactured from expanded polyethylene (EPE) and other polymers are common as well. Molded paper pulp insert trays are produced by combining water and recycled or reclaimed newsprint or corrugated paper to form a slurry. The slurry is then formed in a mold to produce a tray with cavities for the intended commodity.

Insert trays provide additional physical protection to the product, facilitate hand sizing of produce items in field-packing operations, and prevent fruit-to-fruit spread of decay. Plastic insert trays help minimize abrasion damage, localize decay to individual fruit, and reduce moisture loss. Conversely, paper pulp insert trays do not perform well when wet. On the other hand, moisture retention in plastic trays, as a result of condensation or improper drying before or during the time of packing, can create areas of free moisture that encourage decay. This is a problem when the product rests in water trapped in the bottom of the plastic tray. Whether plastic or paper pulp, each tray is often used only once and then discarded. Therefore, the risk of food contamination is relatively low.

While plastic and pulp trays both serve to separate the products and keep them from coming into contact with one another, paper pulp and plastic foam insert trays have an additional benefit. Molded-pulp and foam insert trays provide more cushioning and support than plastic sheet insert trays. By absorbing shocks, the molded-pulp and foam insert trays protect the product from bruising during transportation and handling, therefore further minimizing postharvest losses. Both plastic sheet and foam insert trays exhibit disposal issues. Paper pulp insert trays are oftentimes produced from recycled materials, making them a more eco-friendly choice. However, if a producer's distribution system allows retrieval, plastic insert trays can be cleaned, sanitized and re-used. Overall, insert trays are an attractive option for packers and producers because they are low cost, hygienic, can be environmentally friendly, and result in fewer postharvest losses.

Clamshell containers (Figure 8) are used extensively as consumer packages for a wide variety of commodities such as strawberries, blueberries, kumquats, and cherry tomatoes. A clamshell is a one-piece container consisting of two halves, forming the top and bottom, joined by a hinge with interlocking fasteners or snaps designed for closure. Clamshell containers are manufactured from a variety of different polymers such as polystyrene (PS) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). However, one of the most common polymers used in clamshell containers is polyethylene terephthalate (PET) because it is highly transparent and easily recycled. Properly designed clamshells have a sufficient number of vent holes to facilitate cooling, to allow the product to "breathe" (i.e., allow exchange of respiratory heat and gases), and to allow for excess moisture to escape. The structure is often made using thermoforming or injection molding and can be customized into a variety of desired shapes and sizes.

Figure 8. Polyethylene terephthalate thermoformed (PET) clamshell containers for strawberries.
Figure 8. Polyethylene terephthalate thermoformed (PET) clamshell containers for strawberries.
Credit: Jeffrey Brecht
Clamshell containers also provide an area for attaching labels that include required information such as nutrition, weight, and manufacturer identification in addition to marketing and consumer information. Some of the advantages of clamshell containers include complete product visibility, product security, and increased perceived value. The container also prevents the contents from being handled by multiple individuals throughout the distribution chain, providing an extra degree of food safety. Although they are recyclable, clamshell containers are produced from non-renewable fossil fuels. Therefore, the polymers used to manufacture the containers are not the most environmentally friendly. However, clamshells made from biodegradable biopolymers such as polylactic acid (PLA), which is derived from corn starch or sugar cane dextrose, are available.

Choosing clamshell containers as the preferred method of packaging is often dependent on the commodity, industry standards, and consumer demand. Historically, smaller, open-air containers were used before clamshells. However, clamshells are the preferred choice for producers and packers alike.

Clamshells may be too expensive, however, for small farm operations. An alternative to clamshells might be perforated plastic bags with hand-punched holes for ventilation. Although bags do not provide protection from physical injuries like clamshells, they do protect produce from moisture loss and abrasion. A master container of some sort would also be required to hold consumer-size bags during handling between the farm and point-of-sale. However, perforated plastic bags would not be acceptable for many types of products grown by small farmers. For example, with tomatoes and peppers, the weight of the product would limit use of perforated plastic bags because the bags may stretch, damaging their integrity, and ultimately breaking. However, perforated plastic bags would be an ideal choice for leafy greens, grapes, or radishes.

Sustainable produce packaging is becoming increasingly more common in the marketplace, driven, in part, by consumer demand and government regulation for environmentally friendly materials. While fresh produce is healthy and good for human consumption, many packaging options used to protect fresh products do not contain environmentally friendly materials. Much of that packaging is used only once and then discarded, never to be recycled or reused.

Broadly, sustainable packaging is intended to be functional, but it should also be cost effective. A drastic increase in costs, relative to traditional packaging options, may render it too expensive for use. Sustainable packaging may also fulfill more specific objectives in its design and functionality. For example, reducing or minimizing materials will reduce the weight or volume that the packaging occupies while maintaining logistics efficiency throughout the products' life cycle in the distribution chain will reduce waste. Logistics efficiency involves efficient transportation, design space utilization, and reduced tare weight. The use of biodegradable materials or reusable packaging can minimize the amount of packaging destined for landfills or recycling streams, ultimately resulting in a lower amount of accumulated waste.

There are many reasons why producers choose sustainable packaging options. Economic, environmental, or even ethical concerns can justify choosing sustainable packaging over other options. Ultimately, each producer must weigh the costs and benefits of adopting sustainable packaging formats in order to determine which option is most appropriate for them.

Freshly harvested fruits must be rapidly cooled by removing field heat with a compatible cooling method. Excess heat causes fruits and vegetables to have higher respiration rates, ultimately resulting in a faster deterioration of their quality. The rate of cooling is directly related to the temperature difference between the cooling medium and the product (Thompson 2014). However, in order for cooling to be effective, at least 7/8 of the field heat should be rapidly removed from the harvested crop. The time it takes to remove this amount of heat is known as the "7/8 Cooling Time" (Sargent et al. 2007). In the example of the room cooling of pears illustrated in Figure 9, the 7/8 cooling time has been achieved after 9 hours. Further cooling results in diminishing returns, as can be seen in the figure.

Figure 9. Example of 7/8 cooling accomplished in 9 hours using 0°C air.
Figure 9. Example of 7/8 cooling accomplished in 9 hours using 0°C air.
Credit: Adapted from Thompson et al. (2008).
There are a variety of different cooling methods available to producers, although not every method is appropriate or compatible for each commodity. Recommendations for the appropriate cooling methods for different commodities can be found in Sargent et al. (2007). The most common forms of cooling are room cooling, forced-air cooling, hydrocooling, contact icing, and vacuum cooling (Boyette, Wilson, and Estes 1989; Thompson et al. 2008). Vacuum cooling, while very fast and best suited for leafy crops, is not covered here since it is very expensive and used almost exclusively by large operations. Recommendations for the most appropriate cooling methods for larger commercial operations are provided in Sargent et al. (2007). Cooling systems for small-scale fruit and vegetable producers are described by Kitinoja and Thompson (2010). The following section will describe these cooling methods in more detail.

Room cooling involves placing produce in an insulated room that is refrigerated to a desired temperature. This form of cooling can be used for any commodity. However, room cooling is best for relatively non-perishable commodities and for when marketing is rapid. Room cooling may be too slow for high-respiring commodities, which require quick cooling in order for them to be successfully marketed. If properly designed, a room cooling system can be energy efficient and inexpensive. This type of cooling can be very effective for smaller operations. A room that is only used to store previously cooled produce requires a relatively small refrigeration unit. However, if the room is used to initially cool the produce, a larger refrigeration unit is required. An explanation of how to determine the refrigeration capacity and fan performance needed to accomplish room cooling can be found in Thompson et al. (2008).

Forced-air cooling is used in conjunction with a refrigerated room and can be very effective for rapidly cooling most packaged produce. In contrast to room cooling, in which cool air circulates around containers or pallets of produce, in forced-air cooling the cool air is drawn through the packages and thus comes in direct contact with the produce within the packages. This is accomplished by stacking palletized produce containers in front of vents placed in a false wall with a fan behind the wall. As seen in Figure 10, a canvas or plastic cover or tarp is pulled over the space between adjacent rows of pallets so that, when the fan is running, cooled room air is pulled through the containers to reach the fan; that air, carrying the heat removed from the produce, is then re-cooled by the room refrigeration unit (Parsons and Kasmire 1974).

Figure 10. A portable forced-air cooling unit.
Credit: R.A. Parsons and R.F. Kasmire (1974).
The cooling rate for forced-air cooling depends on the air temperature and the rate of airflow through the packages. The airflow rate is determined by the pressure differential between the room side and the fan side and requires a tight seal around the pallets so that cold room air cannot bypass the produce to reach the fan. The difference in pressure forces air through the containers of product, removing field and respiratory heat (Talbot and Fletcher 2006). Forced-air cooling systems are normally equipped with a thermostat on the fan that automatically shuts off the fan when a desired temperature is reached, in order to reduce the energy consumption and water loss of the product. As a means of heat removal, forced-air cooling can be extremely effective, cooling fruits and vegetables typically four times faster than room cooling (Brecht 2003). Additionally, water loss is lower for forced-air than for room cooling because forced-air cooling brings the individual produce items near to the room air temperature more quickly, which minimizes the driving force for water loss from the tissues.

The refrigeration capacity must be greater in a room used for forced-air cooling than for room cooling because a greater amount of heat needs to be removed in a shorter period of time. Thompson et al. (2008) provide guidelines for converting a regular refrigerated storage room into a forced-air cooler, including how to estimate the refrigeration requirements. Plans are also available for constructing small-scale, portable forced-air coolers that can be placed within a cold room (Boyette and Rohrbach 1989) or used with integral refrigeration (Talbot and Fletcher 2006).

Hydrocooling is the process of rapidly removing heat from a product using chilled water. The product may be immersed individually in a tank or flume of cooled water (Figure 11) and then carried downstream with the current or packaged product may be conveyed upstream against the current. Alternatively, the produce packed in bulk bins or water-resistant packages may be placed under a perforated pan of chilled water that showers onto the produce (Figure 12). For both designs, the water, carrying the heat removed from the produce, is collected and pumped through a refrigeration unit and recirculated for further product cooling. Water can remove heat about 15 times faster than air, although the actual efficiency of hydrocooling systems is lower. Hydrocooling typically cools produce 5 to 10 times faster than forced-air cooling. The rate of cooling in a hydrocooler is strongly related to the amount of contact that occurs between the cool water and the product being cooled. For this reason, tank and flume hydrocoolers are more efficient than shower hydrocoolers, and loose produce is cooled fastest, followed by produce in bulk bins, then individual packages, then palletized produce.

Figure 11. Snap beans being sorted upon exit from a hydrocooling flume.
Figure 11. Snap beans being sorted upon exit from a hydrocooling flume.
Credit: Jeffrey Brecht

Figure 12. Cooling sweetcorn in a shower hydrocooler.
Figure 12. Cooling sweetcorn in a shower hydrocooler.
Credit: Jeffrey Brecht
Because the water is recirculated during hydrocooling, it must contain a sanitizer; otherwise, microorganisms carried on some produce items will be spread to all of the produce being hydrocooled, ultimately resulting in increased decay and spoilage and possible contamination by human pathogens. Chlorine is widely used in conventional operations and levels must be carefully managed during hydrocooling to provide a constant 100 to 150 ppm of free chlorine, adjusted to pH 6.5–7.0. While minimum chlorine concentrations must be maintained to effectively kill pathogens in the water, excess chlorine can produce surface bleaching, rendering the product undesirable. More information about options for organic operations is available from Sargent and Treadwell (2015).

For small operations, ice can be substituted for mechanical refrigeration in carrying out hydrocooling. This approach includes both recirculating systems using block ice and manual drench systems using crushed ice. The key is using sufficient ice to maintain the desired water temperature. However, it is necessary to point out that water sanitation is critical even for a small-scale hydrocooler. Also, while hydrocooling can be used for many commodities, it cannot be used for those that are sensitive to wetting, particularly onions and garlic.

Contact icing is used to cool a variety of commodities, although the application procedure may vary, and is particularly suitable for the smallest produce operations. Contact icing can be applied as top icing, in which crushed ice is added over the top of the product either by hand or by machine application (Figure 13). An ice and water mixture is a much more efficient cooling medium than ice alone, and a slurry can be injected into packaged produce through the vents or handholds without disturbing the structure of the palletized product (Figure 14). The key for this method to be effective is that the produce-package venting must be designed so that the package is filled with the ice-water slurry as it is injected, then the water can drain out the bottom of the package, leaving crushed ice evenly distributed through the product. Usually this means using corrugated fiberboard cartons, but some RPCs have venting that is suitable for cooling with ice-water slurry. Corrugated fiberboard cartons require wax coatings to be effective when used with ice so that the water is unable to penetrate and reach the fiberboard.