Raspberries are one of the world’s most fragile fruits, being hollow, soft and small. Now, Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture PhD candidate Ky Nha Huynh is helping solve two interlinked problems for the Tasmanian berry industry: packaging and shelf life.
The research is part of Ms Huynh’s project with the ARC Training Centre for Innovative Horticultural Products, located at TIA. “The shelf life of raspberries is relatively short, compared to larger fruit,” Ms Huynh said. “It’s really important that raspberries are stored well in the right packaging to optimise freshness and also to prevent damage.”
Ms Huynh said the hollow structure of berries meant they needed to be handled with care, including when being washed: “Moisture gets into the berry, which can lead to reduced freshness after several days.”
Keeping berries fresh for longer is a ‘Catch-22’: The berries lose moisture from refrigeration but need to be refrigerated to stay fresh. Ms Huynh is testing the quality of the berries after being stored for two weeks in different packaging and with different atmospheric conditions.
‘Modified Atmospheric Packaging’ or MAP
“MAP packaging, on its own, is not designed for any one specific fruit or vegetable. But because it’s sealed packaging, we can alter and test the levels of natural gasses in the atmosphere,” Ms Huynh said. I’m trying to determine the most beneficial atmospheric composition in the packaging.”
Packaging alone is not able to control mould and decay – it needs to be tailored to suit the produce – so Ms Huynh is also researching processing methods which may help.
According to theadvocate.com.au, nine other PhD candidates are also working to reduce Australia’s produce waste. Findings of each of the projects will be presented at the Training Centre Conference, 20-21 March at the University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay.