Monthly Archives: August 2018

Chance to learn about SCEPTREplus trials on lettuce root aphid

Growers have had the chance to assess the latest set of field trials forming part of AHDB Horticulture’s SCEPTREplus trials, this time looking at the control of lettuce root aphid.

The aim of the trial is to determine the efficacy of novel treatments for the control of the pest on lettuce. According the AHDB, “In recent years lettuce root aphids have been managed effectively by the neonicotinoid seed treatments used to control aphids on the foliage. The impending loss of neonicotinoids will increase the risk of lettuce root aphid infestations.”

The trial, which consists of 12 treatments including the insecticide-free control and the commercial standard of Cruiser seed treatment, was visited by growers on 8 August. The experimental products have been applied as spray, drench or phytodrip treatments across two sequential plantings which have been timed to target the migration of lettuce root aphids from overwintering sites on poplar.

The post Chance to learn about SCEPTREplus trials on lettuce root aphid appeared first on Hort News on 9 August 2018.

Trials underway for robotic raspberry picking

A robotics development company which started life as a spin-out of the University of Plymouth is to trial a revolutionary raspberry picking robot with the Hall Hunter Partnership.

Fieldwork Robotics is now part-owned by AIM-listed Frontier IP group PLC, which saw its shares rise 5.7 per cent on the news that they would be working with Hall Hunter Partnership which grows 14,000 tonnes of soft fruit, including raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries for customers including Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and Tesco.

“Hall Hunter are the UK’s largest grower of raspberries…so they’re clearly a large player in the sector,” said Neil Crabb, chief executive of Frontier IP. He pointed out that raspberries are one of the most fragile types of soft fruit, so successful field tests would lead the way to using the robot in other fruit and vegetable crops including blueberries and strawberries.

The technology was developed by Dr Martin Stoelen of the University of Plymouth, who is now working on a tomato harvesting project in China. He said, “The collaboration agreement we’ve signed with Hall Hunter is a big step forward for Fieldwork and the team at the University of Plymouth. I’m looking forward to seeing our robots operating in the field.” The University has also received funding from Agri-tech Cornwall to develop robotics technologies for use in cauliflowers and other vegetables.

Hall Hunter Partnership chief operating officer David Green said: “HHP has always led the soft fruit industry in pushing forward productivity and quality standards on our Farms and Nurseries. This partnership with Fieldwork Robotics is an exciting new development to pioneer the harvesting of raspberries robotically at a commercial scale. We are looking forward to our first human-free hectare to be picked together.”

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

The post Trials underway for robotic raspberry picking appeared first on Hort News on 9 August 2018.

Effects of heat wave on farming getting serious

As the UK enters a cooler period over the coming weekend, there are warnings that the situation for farmers is now becoming serious.

Rob Clayton of AHDB told the BBC’sWake up To Moneyprogramme: “This year growers have had the Beast from the East, then they’ve had it so hot and so dry this summer.” This means that reduced yields, coupled with a 3 per cent reduction in the planted area will reduce crop availability. “Our options are limited. It means prices are going to be a little bit higher right the way through until next spring,” he added.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Nielsen, shortages of vegetables have increased food price inflation to 1.6 per cent in July, compared to 1.2 per cent in May and June. The average price of a head of broccoli is around 25 per cent higher than this time last year, while carrots are 8.3 per cent more expensive in supermarkets. Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC says that, “The hot, dry conditions we have seen … mean the pressure on prices will continue for some time to come.”

At the same time, Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers Association has called on retailers to work with growers during the continued dry weather. “There will certainly be less production and higher costs for growers and this will continue to affect winter crops as well as those planted in the spring,” he stressed. “At the moment it is too difficult to make predictions about where we will be in four month’s time. It is impossible to predict what will happen next year and Brexit adds more uncertainty for producers.”

Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union, told the broadcaster, “The situation on the ground is hugely challenging across all sectors. There could be serious concerns for many farmers if this extended spell of warmer, drier weather continues. This unprecedented spell of weather really should be a wake-up call for us all. It’s a timely reminder that we shouldn’t take food production for granted.”

The post Effects of heat wave on farming getting serious appeared first on Hort News on 9 August 2018.

Think you can’t evaporate with low temperatures? Think again…

When treating wastewater, sludge and digestate, it can be beneficial to reduce the volume of material or increase the solids content. Mechanical dewatering via a centrifuge or belt press to separate solids and liquids is standard for the water treatment and anaerobic digestion sectors – but what if you want to further reduce the water content of the remaining liquid fraction?

The two main reasons to remove or reduce water from effluent and waste are either to reduce the volume of material in order to cut storage, handling and disposal costs; or to produce materials with distinct properties (such as liquid and solid fractions of digestate), which can then be stored and used in the most appropriate way. The traditional options are drying (which requires large quantities of heat and energy, is costly and inefficient) and evaporation (usually requiring temperatures in excess of 100ºC).

Energy efficient evaporation

However, for many types of effluent, low temperature evaporation can be very energy efficient. Where process temperatures are 85-90º C, low temperature evaporation combines the use of a vacuum to reduce the boiling point of the liquid to be removed, together with traditional high temperature evaporators, based on heat exchanger technology, and surplus heat from heaters and CHP engines can often be utilised for the process.

Heat exchangers from HRS are capable of recovering such heat and using it as the basis for an evaporation system can further improve overall process efficiency. Additionally, using a vacuum in the system to reduce the boiling point reduces the amount of energy required even further. Combining systems into a multiple-effect evaporator allows larger quantities of water to be removed for the same initial heat input, with the vapour boiled off in one vessel used to heat the next.

Selecting the right heat exchanger

The type of heat exchanger used will depend on the nature of the products being treated. For materials with low or medium viscosities, such as wastewater and effluent with low concentrations of organic solids, using the HRS K Series as an evaporator module provides high heat transfer rates with good resistance to fouling. For more challenging and viscous materials, such as thicker effluents, digestate and solids with higher dry matter concentrations, the HRS Unicus Series contains a self-cleaning scraper mechanism which reduces fouling and maintains heat transfer rates (and therefore operational efficiency).

While both the K Series and Unicus Series are commonly used in the type of multi-effect evaporation system described above, both heat exchanger models can also be used in other types of evaporator, such as mechanical vapour recompression (MVR) or thermal vapour recompression (TVR) systems, depending on the needs of the product or application.

The ultimate use of HRS heat exchangers for low temperature evaporation can be found in the HRS Digestate Concentration System (DCS), which uses multiple evaporation effects to increase the solids in liquid digestate three- to four-fold. Whether you want to minimise effluent and digestate volumes using the DCS, or simply reduce them in a more energy efficient way, HRS Heat Exchangers has a low temperature evaporation solution to achieve the required results.

The post Think you can’t evaporate with low temperatures? Think again… appeared first on HRS Heat Exchangers on 10 July 2018.

EU tomato production expected to reduce in 2018

Overall tomato production within the European Union is expected to decrease this year due to significant reductions in outdoor production of processing crops in Spain.

The latest EU figures show that production last year was some 3 per cent higher (at a total of 18.5 million tonnes) than in 2016, again driven by an increase in processing crop production as fresh crop output actually fell by 2 per cent.

The forecast production of Iberian crops is expected to be 22 per cent lower this season, with some 3,000 less hectares planted in Extramadura alone – largely due to the wet weather and thunder storms seen in April and May. Trade body TomatoEurope expects the overall production of process types of tomatoes to be some 12 per cent lower than last year, although the output from Portugal and Italy is expected to be in line with previous years.

It is also important to note that these forecasts were made before the recent very hot weather, and does not account for any effect on final yields which may result.

The post EU tomato production expected to reduce in 2018 appeared first on Hort News on 1 August 2018.

Could chickens be the key to sustainable veg production?

Researchers at Iowa State University in America believe that integrating chickens into vegetable production systems could lead to greater efficiencies and healthier soils.

The researchers are testing what happens when a flock of broiler chickens lives on a vegetable field for part of the year. The chickens forage on the plant matter left behind after the vegetables are harvested and fertilize the soil with manure. Three different systems are being trialled, with around 40 chickens living in four mobile coops that the researchers move every day. Moving the coops around ensures the chickens have access to fresh forage and keeps their manure from concentrating any particular part of the field. An electric fence surrounds the field to keep out predators.

The chickens are introduced to the system after the vegetable crops have been harvested to prevent contamination of fresh produce, and the system has been overseen by the US Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

However, while the system may provide a number of environmental benefits, the scientists acknowledge that it may not be suitable for commercial situations. “We might come up with results that really help the soil, but if the system is not economically stable, I doubt growers will be willing to adopt it because it has to work for their bottom line as well,” Ajay Nair, an associate professor of horticulture and a vegetable production specialist at ISU.

Photo Credit: flickr

The post Could chickens be the key to sustainable veg production? appeared first on Hort News on 1 August 2018.

Heat wave will affect winter veg harvest at home and abroad

While rains over the weekend have provided some respite to growers around the country, the industry is warning that the prolonged heat wave, which left some areas without rain for almost three months, will have longer term effects on the availability of vegetables across Europe.

Warnings have already been issued about the yields of traditional ‘winter’ veg crops such as carrots, onions and potatoes, but brassica growers are also warning of breaks in continuity and areas which have been too dry to allow the planting of winter crops.

Greville Richards, managing director of Southern England Farms, told the Fresh Produce Journal: “We’ve got some areas in Cornwall now that we just can’t plant because it’s so dry and we’re getting quite concerned now about our winter crops… we’re getting really worried about what we’re planting now for the winter months because it’s just getting too dry to plant.”

A number of potato growers have already said that they are unlikely to fulfil contracted volumes, and it is unlikely that suppliers will be able to import crop from Europe to fill the gap. The German Association of the Fruit, Vegetable, and Potato Processing Industry says that it expects a smaller, lower-quality potato crop, while the Swedish Farmers Association estimates its members could lose SEK8bn (~EUR 7.79bn).

Photo Caption: The canopy on many potato crops is still not meeting across the rows.

Photo Credit: flickr

The post Heat wave will affect winter veg harvest at home and abroad appeared first on Hort News on 1 August 2018.

Heavy duty heat exchanger tackles nut butter challenge

Nut butter is one of the big food trends of the last two years. Once the only choice on the shelf would have been between smooth or crunchy peanut butter, but recently, as the health benefits of quality nut butter have been understood, the market has exploded to include peanut, almond, cashew, and even seed butters, often including other additives such as high quality cocoa, coconut and coffee. However, producers of these products all share one major challenge. Nut butter is extremely viscous – almost solid at low temperatures – making it very difficult to move through processing machinery.

Most nut butters are semi-solids, as shown by the fact that they will hold a peak. At room temperature peanut butter is at least five times thicker than tomato ketchup, but at colder conditions it becomes even more viscous, as anyone who has tried to spread it straight from the fridge will know. Adding stabilisers, such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, to prevent oil separation, can actually make the problem worse as they form a crystalline structure with higher levels of viscosity.

For HRS Heat Exchangers the problem was highlighted when a client ordered an R Series Scraped Surface heat exchanger for a nut butter line, as HRS International Sales and Marketing Director Matt Hale explains:

Although the R Series is purposely designed for viscous materials some very solid materials, like low temperature peanut butter, were a step too far. The thickness of the cold nut butter was beyond the parameters of the R Series gearbox and its mountings, and the unit we were testing failed. However, the experience highlighted the need for a heavy duty version of the R Series, so our R&D team set to work to produce a scraped surface heat exchanger for materials like nut butters that are almost solid. The result is the new HRS RHD Series for heavy duty applications.

The HRS engineering team set out to maintain the benefits of the standard R Series – such as the continuous scraping action to enhance the mixing of viscous products and the unique sealing system which allows for the removal of individual tubes for cleaning or maintenance – but increase its strength and durability.

As well as expanding the motor size from 4 kW to 7.5 kW, and bolstering the gearbox size accordingly, the overall heat exchanger was also reinforced. The scraping rod was made bigger and stronger, with heavy duty bearings and lips seals to accommodate increased torque. Further along the tube, an extra support for the scrapers was added to cope with the weight and increased forces. Finally, an extra external support was added to the motor end of each RHD unit to cope with the extra weight.

Matt continues: “The standard R Series of rotating scraped surface heat exchangers from HRS Heat Exchangers have been proven time and time again in both food and hygienic applications for their ability to reliably process viscous products such as sauces, purées, creams and gels. With the addition of the new HRS RHD Series, we can now deliver these benefits to the thickest and most difficult to handle materials, such as nut butters or any semi-solid product.”

The post Heavy duty heat exchanger tackles nut butter challenge appeared first on HRS Heat Exchangers on 7 August 2018.

Algorithms for accurate tomato crop estimates

According to Dutch firm HortiKey, continues increases in the area of tomato production globally mean that growers need to adopt new digital technologies in order to be able to manager ever larger production facilities.

Their aim is to improve the gathering of reliable plant data from greenhouses, so that analytical analysis becomes more robust and useful in commercial situations. The firm employed Wageningen UR to develop a series of algorithms to classify tomatoes automatically.

The assessment is done when the fruit is still hanging on the vine in the greenhouse and is independent from the available lighting conditions, something which the company says human beings cannot.

With these algorithms new data is generated from the greenhouse in a way never shown before, together with algorithms for automatic counting,” explains Abdreas Hofland, General Manager at HortiKey. “It is the basis for the Plantalyzer: an autonomous driving platform from Berg Hortimotive with sensors and software to analyze the tomatoes. Prognosis software from analyzes the gathered data to calculate an accurate crop estimate.

“The Plantalyzer is a good example of how algorithms can help growers to improve their performance. The gain is higher customer satisfaction, more control over the price-making process, more stability in planning and thus, a contribution to company continuity.”

Photo Credit: HortiKey

The post Algorithms for accurate tomato crop estimates appeared first on Hort News on 23 July 2018.

New Dutch strawberries released

Dutch fruit producer Flevo Berry has released a new mid-season fruiting strawberry that the company says has good tolerance to Phytopthora.

Sonsation is a short day variety, with berries with orange-red, conical berries which are said to resemble Sonata, but with better firmness. According to the company, ‘Sonsation is an easy growing variety producing a compact plant with lovely upturned leafs. Flower trusses are at leaf length and still well protected against spring frost. Flowers have excellent pollen quality ensuring a very well fruit set and fruits are well displayed and very easy to pick.’

Steven Oosterloo, commercial director of Flevo Berry said: “Sonsation fits into our philosophy. In developing new varieties we always look ahead. It can be done differently and it really must be done differently, so for us, flavor and sustainability are at the top of the list. It is a part of the way we think. You can use Sonsation in a variety of growing systems. From normal conditions and cooled environments to cultivation on racks and on substrate in greenhouses. The variety is easy to grow and juicy, making it appropriate for both direct sale and retail.”

Photo Credit: Flevo Berry

The post New Dutch strawberries released appeared first on Hort News on 23 July 2018.