Capturing the harvest and minimizing food waste

Alison DiFiore
Published Feb 11, 2021. Read time: 2 mins
Passion fruit has a prolonged harvest window, with fruit ripening successionally. While this means that there is ripe fruit to pick regularly during harvest season, in a commercial setting successional harvests can be challenging because growers are unable to capture their entire crop during one harvest. With passion fruit and other similarly challenging crops, the exact timing of each individual harvest can be difficult to forecast and can vary significantly. There are days with available fruit and there are also days without available fruit. Both can be difficult to forecast in timing and volume. Successionally ripening fruit is different than the practice of successional planting. Successional planting is a strategic planting schedule that allows farmers to have consistently available crops at predictable and known times (like Christmas trees or lettuce).

There are a few ways that farmers deal with a crop like passion fruit:
  1. They grow a lot so that each individual harvest is significant enough to provide the volume needed to meet buyer demands. It’s important to note that the volume that is harvested has to be sorted for quality and graded for size and other buyer requirements. Depending on the farm and the buyer, the crop and the variety, this sorting and grading process can result in significant culling. The fruit that is removed during this process is sometimes sold for processing and sometimes left as waste depending on many variables, like the quantity and quality of culled fruit and sales channels available to the farmer.
  2. They grow different varieties that allow for more consistency, i.e. a quantity of fruit is available every single day during the season.
  3. They have a regular sales channel that can handle the product. For smaller volume production, direct to consumer models are often the best for handling crops like passion fruit because of the shorter timeline (which can allow for small aggregation of multiple harvests) and ability to make small volumes available.

Traditional direct to consumer sales channels are farmers markets, community supported agriculture programs (CSAs) and farm stands. While all of these channels are great, not all farmers have access to one or all of them, and each of these sales channels may also not be a great fit for every farm business or every crop.

When crops are difficult to sell, they result in waste and a lack of reliable income for farmers, ultimatelydisincentivizing farmers to produce them. A fruit like passion fruit--that consumers love and is actually relatively easy to grow, isn’t a readily accessible part of our fresh food supply for this reason. It’s a lose-lose: customers miss out, farmers have one less product to sell, and overall crop diversity decreases.

At FruitStand, we strive to try to think creatively about ways that we can accommodate the unique requirements of fruits like passion fruit because we want to keep them in production. When we succeed, the result is less wasted fruit, reliable sales for farmers and unique and high quality options for consumers.

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