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Design Features and Bruise Evaluation of an Apple Harvest and In-Field Presorting Machine

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 61(3): 1135-1144. (doi: 10.13031/trans.12327) @2018
Authors:   Anand Kumar Pothula, Zhao Zhang, Renfu Lu
Keywords:   Apples, Bruising, Fruit, Grading, Harvesting, Sorting, Machine vision.

Abstract. In-field presorting of apples, in combination with the harvest aid function, would have advantages of cost savings in postharvest handling and storage, reduced postharvest pest and disease problems, and better inventory management, while also enhancing harvest productivity. A new apple harvest and in-field presorting prototype was developed to help apple growers achieve these potential benefits. The prototype sorts and grades fruit based on color and size, using a machine vision-based sorting system with an innovative fruit singulating and rotating design (SRD), and it handles the graded fruit in the bins using newly designed automatic bin fillers. Bruise damage by impact is a critical factor in the development of the apple harvest and in-field presorting prototype. This article reports on the major design features of the prototype and experimental evaluation of the prototype for potential bruise damage. Experiments were conducted on ‘Gala‘ and ‘Fuji‘ apples to evaluate bruise damage potential under both empty and partially filled bin conditions. An impact recording device (IRD) was used to measure the impact magnitude in terms of peak acceleration (G) at all critical points of the machine, including harvest conveyors, main conveyor, flat conveyor, SRD, cup conveyor, bin filler, and bins. It was found that bruise damage mainly occurred during bin filling. The number of impacts recorded for the partially filled bin was reduced by 60%, compared to that for the empty bin, indicating that the impact between apples and the wooden bin‘s floor was a major cause of bruising. The maximum G value for the partially filled bin was measured at 34.5, while the measured G values were less than 20 from start to the point just before the bin filler, indicating no bruise damage. Bruise evaluation showed that no more than 9% of the test apples would be downgraded from ‘Extra Fancy‘ grade for the partially filled bin condition. Higher G values for the empty bin condition suggested the need for further improvement to the discharge of apples from the bin filler to the bin to further reduce bruise damage.

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