Six years ago, Pinata Farms, a Wamuran-based grower, began a research project focused on Honey Gold mangoes and their under-skin browning.
Under-skin browning does not change a mango's taste, but does give the skin an unpalatable bruised appearance. Pinata Farms managing director Gavin Scurr said under skin browning predominantly affected the company's mango crops in the Northern Territory.
"We've narrowed that down to the speed of the fruit development," Scurr said. "From flowering to harvest in the NT is about 100 to 110 days, whereas the quickest it gets in Queensland is 140 days."
Research, conducted in collaboration with Queensland's agriculture department and Horticulture Innovation Australia couldn't pinpoint any way to beat under skin browning during the growing stage. Therefore the researchers were starting to look at packing and handling instead.
The conclusions Pinata Farms reached resulted in a fundamental shake-up of their operation, moving from day-time to night-time harvesting.
"We are the only people harvesting at night," Scurr said."But a few other businesses have looked at it, we weren't the first to trial night harvesting. A few others had dabbled in it from a double shifting perspective when you are behind in your harvest."
A key feature of their Northern Territory harvesting operation was slowly bringing fruit down to packing temperature. "The quicker you bring the fruit down from ambient temperature to transport temperature exacerbates the problem. So instead we bring the temperature down slower, which is counter-intuitive to best practice where the quicker you bring it down, the better. If we can cool it down over 24 hours, instead of six or eight hours, it makes a significant difference to the amount of under-skin browning we get. And it has a negligible impact on shelf life."