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New technology funded in tree fruit industry

More than $200,000 will go towards several tree fruit industry projects using new technology from the federal-provincial Tree Fruit Market and Infrastructure Initiative.

Announced Thursday by provincial agriculture minister Norm Letnick and Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan, they include a project of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association and its research and development orchard to create a measure for testing cherry quality after picking.

BCFGA general manager Glen Lucas explained the idea would be to look at cherry stem moisture as a method to predict shelf life, a sort of “best before dating.”

The aim would be to validate earlier research results and provide information to growers and packinghouses that could lead to development of quality standards for cherries, he said.

Testing stem moisture is relatively simple and testing for pressure and sugars is also not complex, so the testing could be done on-site at packing facilities, he said.

A private research would be hired to do the work which would also involve some packinghouse, he said.

The BCFGA has received $19,200 to do the work which would get underway this summer, he said.

Coral Beach Farms in Lake Country received $35,000 for an innovative software program to automate sorting out of stemless cherries.

That would add value by reducing the number of stemless cherries for customers who will pay extra to ensure all cherries have stems on, and it will reducethe labour costs of sorting them out by hand.

The new equipment was added last season to the optical sizer at the farm, and cherry grower David Geen says it worked very well. It’s the first time it’s been used in B.C.

“It allows us to target specific packs of cherries to specific markets in a very cost-effective manner,” Geen explained, which help them compete in the global marketplace.

The Okanagan Kootenay Cherry Growers Association received $21,000 for two projects involving management of the newest pest of soft fruits, the spotted wing drosophila, in its larval stage, when it can infest cherries if not controlled.

Cawston Cold Storage, which handles much of the organic tree fruit in the region, received $106,000 toward new storage technology which would be more efficient, and would extend the marketing season for organic apples by maximizing post-harvest storage quality.

As well, the Jind Fruit Company is receiving $26,000 to improve cold-storage air quality and conditions at its Osoyoos packinghouse.

It’s all part of a $5 million contribution by the federal and provincial governments, with the federal portion coming from the AgriFlex program, to help reduce production costs, improve environmental sustainability, promote innovation and respond to emerging opportunities and market challenges.

The five-year funding ends in 2014.

“B.C. has a strong reputation around the world for producing top-quality tree fruits, such as apples and cherries,” said Cannan. “These projects and leading-edge technologies will increase profitability and ensure that the region’s producers remain industry leaders on the domestic and international stage.”

“The B.C. government has been working with industry to focus on innovation and technology as we look at ways to expand their product line and markets,” said Letnick. “The investment of more than $200,000 for these projects will enhance both our province’s tree fruit operations and ensure the agrifoods industry continues to be an integral part of British Columbia’s economy.”

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com

 

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