Food Storage Curriculum for Farmers and Processors

Final Report for ONE13-176

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2013: $14,952.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Christopher Callahan
University of Vermont Extension
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Project Information

Summary:

The goal of this project was provide education on food storage for farmers to increase postharvest competency and capacity in the region and ultimately improved product quality and farm viabilit.  It has resulted in the development and delivery of a food storage curriculum for farmers and processors focused on produce. This curriculum integrated knowledge on crop physiology, optimal storage conditions (temperature and humidity), storage infrastructure (cold rooms, equipment, structure and materials), and controls and monitoring. A total of 337 participants attended in-person workshops totaling 1600 contact hours of educational programming. Meeting and conference presentations combined with webinars brought total participation in structured educational programming to 1122 participants and 2200 contact hours. Evaluation indicated strong, relevant knowledge development with improved understanding of topic and related resources noted among 97% of workshop participants. A web-based clearinghouse of related resources was also developed (http://blog.uvm.edu/cwcallah/crop-storage-resources/). The site hosts workshop materials, developed under the project, but also collects other existing resources with relevance to the topic. This site has had 18,000 page views over 3 years with an average visit duration of 1.2 minutes. This project coincided with and supported improved direct consultations with 660 producers over 3 years. The project has also increased awareness of the need for additional work in the postharvest arena leading to several other initiatives that will have lasting benefit to the region.

Introduction:

The lead of this project had noted in 2012 that there was increased development of food storage capacity at farms and processors coupled with limited topic knowledge in the region. This was demonstrated in a 2012 survey of food system producers and processors in which 85% of respondents indicated interest in attending such a course. Additional storage or expansion of existing storage was planned over the next 24 months among 65% of respondents. This practice coincides with farmer’s expanding covered growing during these periods using both unheated high tunnels and heated greenhouses.

Small scale, distributed food storage is not a well-developed skill set among farmers, and they often depend on mechanical contractors as expert specifier/installers of equipment with mixed results. The intended audience of this project also self-rated their knowledge of food storage equipment as only “fair”, and expressed a desire for more in-depth technical knowledge so they can “do it right the first time” and “use scarce resources better.” The mechanical and refrigeration trade is mainly focused on retail grocery and restaurant customers which have very different needs than food producers. They often have limited crop understanding or food quality preservation knowledge. For example, most commercial walk-in coolers have no measurement or control of humidity.

Additionally, many farms and food businesses are seeking to utilize existing buildings for storage purposes by retrofitting cold rooms and warm rooms into them. This can be done, but also requires attention to details beyond common construction techniques.

A food storage educational curriculum for farmers and processors was needed.

This project was conceived to address a suspected and confirmed gap in farmer and processor knowledge in the northeast focused on storage of fruits and vegetables. The physiology of fresh fruit and vegetables requires specific attention to the temperature and humidity of their storage spaces to attain optimal quality of product and duration of storage. A key concept in this area of practice is the understanding that the “food is still alive”; fresh fruits and vegetables are still respiring. This respiration leads to the generation of heat, water vapor and carbon dioxide along with a ripening hormone, ethylene. Also, each crop is different in the optimal conditions required to preserve freshness and limit degradation.

Our project involved producers and processors in the development of a curriculum addressing this need. The course delivery was via classroom instruction (5 sites), recorded webinar (available 24×7), course workbooks and other references which reside on the UVM Ag Engineering Crop Storage Resources website. We intended to reach a total of 250 students in Vermont over the two-year life of the project which included revision after the first year based on student feedback and measured changes in practice and continual improvement thereafter. The project focused on development and delivery in Vermont, but we made the content freely available to others in the region and beyond who find it helpful and also delivered workshops in other areas when there were opportunities for alignment. Conventional networks, social media and eNewsletters were used to distribute the findings and outputs of the project as well as conference attendance and presentation. This work also supported the development of technical service providers and educators (including the project team) furthering their efficacy during farm and site visits and working directly with producers.

Project Objectives:

The objectives of the project were to (1) fully describe the challenge, (2) adapt and adopt existing resources while also developing and delivering the curriculum and (3) to evaluate and share results throughout the region.

Fully describe the challenge. We needed to first establish an understanding of the landscape of cool and cold storage in Vermont and associated performance benchmarks via farmer surveys and on-site interviews. This was the first project aimed at educating practitioners in the region on food storage equipment, systems and practices. By completing the assessment and gap identification sections of our planned methods we were able to more clearly understand and articulate what the educational content needed to be. This helped to outline the course with the basic educational concepts including:

  1. Importance of Food Storage
  2. Crop Characteristics
  3. Energy, Heat and Moisture
  4. Structures and Materials
  5. Equipment
  6. Controls and Monitoring

Adapt and adopt: Develop the curriculum. The storage systems and equipment in use in the region are typically designed for refrigeration of packaged food products and, as such, are not well suited to maintaining optimal fruit and vegetable quality which require control of both temperature and humidity. Furthermore, the insulated boxes used for coolers and freezers are very diverse in the region ranging from prefabricated, well-sealed units to self-constructed envelopes. This project was intended to leverage existing knowledge in other parts of the nation and at other points of the food system to develop farm-based working knowledge of best practices for cool and cold storage. As noted in the Research section of our methods, we were able to leverage existing knowledge and tailor it to the regional needs. By combining the crop-specific guidance from USDA Handbook 66 with materials, construction, equipment and controls guidance we were able to package a relevant and meaningful educational program that empowered participants to make more informed decisions and improved practice.

Evaluate and actively share results with the region. Although the development of this course was motivated by expressed needs in Vermont and initial course opportunities were to be limited to Vermont, the intent was to develop a curriculum that is relevant to the entire Northeast. Findings, resources and lessons learned were to be shared via regional food system networks and online networks.

Project Performance. Our proposed performance target was to deliver 5 workshops in 5 locations reaching 250 participants with direct educational programming. We exceeded this target with delivery of a total of 7 workshops, 4 meeting presentations, and 2 webinars reaching 1,122 participants and achieving a total of 2,200 contact hours. More detail is provided below in the Results section.

Cooperators

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Research

Materials and methods:

The project was planned with the following methods;

  • Assessment,
  • Benchmarking,
  • Gap identification,
  • Research,
  • Education, and
  • Impact evaluation.

A summary of work relative to each component is provided below.

Assessment. A survey preceding this project proposal in 2012 identified the need for and interest in educational programming on the topic. The work of the project was to develop a relevant and effective approach to improving the knowledge of participants in the topic area. Additional field-work by the project team ahead of and early in this project period had helped to “paint the picture” of storage systems and practice in the region. In short it is highly varied, small-scale, generally using single temperature zones, and not monitored or controlled very well.

The first year of the project allowed for initial curriculum and resource development based on assessment of available resources and needs among the community. This initial needs assessment and associated collection of existing information and resources was critical to avoid duplication of effort and redundant or conflicting information. The delivery of the first year of workshops resulted in a great deal of feedback that was taken into account in refining and revising the second year’s workshop delivery. The basic structure of the course remained the same: the growing importance of long-term crop storage, principles of energy and heat transfer, basic heating and refrigeration, construction for utility and efficiency, maintaining temperature, airflow and humidity, biological processes of crops in storage, storage characteristics of various crops, and sizing and design of storage systems. However, the duration of the course and the level of detail were both reduced based on feedback of the participants. Most participants encouraged a 3-4 hour workshop instead of a 6.5 hour workshop and some suggested several focused, shorter (30 minute) classes.

Benchmarking/Gap Identification. The benchmarking proposed in this project proved to be a slightly ahead of its time. The state of storage systems in the region prevented clear characterization in this manner. For example, often insulation values were difficult to capture clearly as the systems were self-built with varied wall construction and insulation materials which leads to a complex description. What was very clear was that many farms knew they needed more storage space and wanted to do it better (cleaner, higher insulation, better control.) The needs expressed during field visits, emails, and phone calls were more meaningful in helping to develop the course outline than a detailed benchmarking study would likely have been.

Site visits have been a critical part of this project as that provides for very intimate exchange of storage information such as practices, infrastructure, challenges and achievements. “Knowledge” gaps among producers were most often associated with crop handling, curing, precooling and storage conditions, equipment selection and use, building layout and design and storage sizing estimation. Several key “practice” challenges have been noted; best practices for handling between harvest and storage, container selection and availability, finding and using smooth cleanable finish surfaces in storage (and other postharvest areas), accurate measurement and control of both temperature and humidity and achieving multiple sets of storage conditions within a single space.

Research. Research related to this project included collection and review of existing resources and publications for others to use. A primary reference material is USDA Handbook 66: The Commercial Storage of Fruits, Vegetables, and Florist and Nursery Stocks. This reference is freely available, now only as an online format. It is a crop-specific guide to postharvest handling and storage of most crops grown and consumed in the United States. Other references included guides to insulation, cooler construction, building plans, refrigeration manuals and general science and engineering texts. The PI attended two courses with other funding that complemented this project; (1) The Pennsylvania State University’s Food Science Short Course and (2) The University of California at Davis Postharvest Technology Short Course. Both of these activities resulted in increased knowledge in the areas of food science, food safety and postharvest technology. This is a case of combining the results of differently funded projects for increased impact. The activities of this project have benefited from the inclusion of learning at these two other courses and the activities of the SARE project helped to identify the other courses as being important for regional progress in the postharvest realm. This project has also helped to confirm the interest in postharvest practices among regional producers first identified in the 2012 survey. This interest remains strong, but also includes topics beyond storage (e.g. breeding for postharvest, variety trials, precooling, curing, food safety, quality, value addition, etc.) This has led to the formation of a regional group focused on postharvest research and education which aims to leverage multi-state effort in a coordinated way to deliver improved knowledge to the region’s producers.

Education. Educational activity included workshops, meeting/conference presentations, webinars, website resources, and individual consultations. Specific results and outcomes from this component of the project are noted in the Results section. In this section we will outline the educational content developed and delivered.

Based on the preceding project components, the following educational outline and approach was developed.

Educational Topics:

  • Importance of Food Storage – Why is food storage important to the region and specific farms and businesses? What competitive advantage can be achieved through improved storage practice?
  • Crop Characteristics – How does crop physiology impact how we maintain storage conditions? Why and how do different crops differ in their optimal storage conditions? What production, harvest and postharvest conditions impact storage life and quality? What crops can be stored together and which ones need to be separate? Why do my carrots become bitter and my cabbage become black?
  • Energy, Heat and Moisture – How do basic scientific principles factor into storage practices? What is relative humidity and how to we measure and control it? How does a refrigeration system work (and not work?) What are effective means for precooling different crops prior to storage?
  • Structures and Materials – How big does my storage space need to be to store a certain amount of each crop? Should I build or buy a cooler? What sort of finish surfaces should I include to make sure my cold room is clean and safe?
  • Equipment – What are my options for refrigeration equipment and how do they compare in terms of cost? What are the basic annual maintenance items I should look out for?
  • Controls and Monitoring – What are the best thermostats I should consider to ensure precise and accurate temperature control? What are my options for measuring and controlling relative humidity? What are my options for being able to monitor my coolers when I am not physically there?

Key Learning Principles:

  1. Know your target conditions. Be informed about what storage conditions are ideal for each of your crops.
  2. Provide multiple zones. May not be multiple rooms. It is likely that if you are growing a diverse set of crops, you will want multiple zones for storage.       This may not mean needing separate rooms as we have found even small rooms can have drastically different temperature and humidity conditions depending on the location of the cooling equipment relative to the location.
  3. Informed design, construction and purchase of equipment. It is helpful to know ahead of time how much space you will need by estimating the required, zoned volume from bulk densities and groupings of crops by ideal storage conditions. Smooth cleanable finish surfaces should be planned and budgeted for to provide for longevity and sanitary conditions. There are clear trade-offs between conventional refrigeration systems and lower-cost CoolBot™ systems which should be understood before making a purchase decision.
  4. Measure your actual conditions. It is often misleading to depend on the thermostat installed with your refrigeration equipment. It may not be accurate and it may not be measuring the actual location that matters. Investing in one or more digital, calibrated thermometers will enable you to know with certainty the air and pulp temperature anywhere in your system and to make adjustments as needed. Additionally, often a retrofit of a good digital thermostat will improve performance of the refrigeration system in place.
  5. Improve crop selection on the way in. Storage is a hotel, not a hospital. Damaged or diseased crops going into storage are not going to improve and they are likely to degrade themselves and neighbors. Rigorous culling and sorting prior to storage and attention to detail during any precooling and curing steps will help to ensure a higher overall quality of stored product.

Learning Objectives:

  • The student will know and appreciate that fresh produce is still alive and respiring.
    • Generating heat, water vapor and carbon dioxide.
    • Generating the ripening hormone ethylene.
    • Respiration is temperature dependent and crop specific.
    • Storage is a hotel not a hospital.
  • The student will learn about the critical need for establishing and maintaining the “cold chain.”
  • The student will learn about crop-specific temperature conditions
    • Precooling requirements
    • Chilling and freezing injury potential and limits.
    • Optimal storage temperature
  • The student will learn about crop-specific humidity conditions.
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    • What humidity is.
    • Importance of high humidity to prevent desiccation
    • Importance of low humidity to prevent plant pathogen development (e.g. molds).
    • How humidity is different from liquid water
  • The student will learn about basic storage room construction
    • Materials and practices that can and should be used (structure, insulation, finish).
    • Materials and practices to avoid.
    • Pre-fabricated options.
  • The student will learn about basic refrigeration systems
    • How a refrigeration heat pump works.
    • How a common split refrigeration system functions (compressor/condenser, expander/evaporator).
    • How alternative systems work (e.g. CoolBot™, root cellars, outside air exchange).
    • General pro’s and con’s of different approaches.
    • The impact of refrigeration systems on “micro-climates” in the storage space.
  • The student will learn about basic controls and monitoring.
    • Basic information about thermostats, stressing the need for precision and accuracy.
    • Basic information about humidistats, hygrometers and psychrometers, stressing the general lack of reliability in existing items on the market.

It is important to note that this project benefited from the work of other SARE funded projects. Specifically, the work done by SARE NH State Coordinator Seth Wilner in the area of adult education theory was particularly helpful. Below are some examples of activities that were integrated into the workshop series to facilitate improved adult learner experience.

Activities (Incorporating Adult Learning Theory)

  • Reflection on Motivations – During introductions – Have participants describe their farm, business and organization and reflect on why they are present and what they hope to gain.
  • Crop Characteristics – Summary Slide – Simply ask what is common and what is different about common storage crops.
  • Crop Characteristics – USDA Handbook 66 – Have students pick a crop, look it up in USDA Handbook 66, read about its optimal handling and storage and summarize back to the group including any unexpected findings.
  • Energy, Heat and Moisture – A Cold Glass of Water – Present a picture of a glass of ice water on a hot, humid day. Ask the class to reflect on what is happening the picture.
  • Energy, Heat and Moisture – Measuring RH with a Sling Psychrometer – Allow students to use a sling psychrometer to measure the RH of the classroom air. Then send them outside to do it (preferably on a cold, dry day.)
  • Structures and Materials – Insulation and Finish Surfaces – Pass around samples of insulation and finish materials for the students to touch and feel. These can also be placed on the desks and tables ahead of class as a tactile opportunity for those who benefit from that.
  • Equipment – CoolBot™ Demonstration – A small CoolBot™ cooling system can be constructed and put on rollers. This can be used to demonstrate the basics of refrigeration while also demonstrating this novel approach to using a window air conditioner to provide cooling for small cold rooms.
  • Equipment – Outside Air Exchange – A small demonstration panel can be made to show how two thermostats and a fan can be used to provide cooling using outside air on cold winter days.
  • Controls and Monitoring – Thermostats – Pass around several examples of thermostats with different features and point out the differences. The outside air exchange panel noted above is also a good way to demonstrate a good thermostat and how they work. Other portable measurement devices can also be demonstrated (e.g. infrared, calibrated insertion thermometers).
  • General Experiential Learning – Invite participants to bring pictures and short slide shows of their own storage spaces and projects, even planned projects. Provide time during breaks or at the end of class to allow participants to share what they have done at their own farms or are planning to do. Facilitate group discussion and encourage questions, tying discussion back into course content to reinforce learning.

This workshop is more than a review of example coolers. The content includes relevant science and engineering fundamentals. One student observed, “Your master plan worked. You snuck that math in and I didn’t even realize I was doing it.” We found that participants enjoyed the fundamental science involved in this topic when delivered in measured doses. The classes have been largely farmers and when the relevance of the math and science are made clear, there is strong uptake. We receive follow-up emails from students who have done calculations and are looking for review of the work. A significant part of this workshop series’ improvement has been integration of adult learner theory. The PI became aware of resources available in this area at a UVM Extension programming meeting were Mr. Wilner presented on adult education principles. We incorporated practices such as frequent breaks, hands-on exercise, student reflection, and open-ended questioning with plenty of time for response into the course outline. Students have responded positively to these changes, and I feel (based on evaluations), they leave the course excited about their learning and what they can do with it. One student at the Shelburne workshop noted, “I thought the practice exercises in small groups was a huge practical piece of the program. It allowed us to understand how to use the tools you gave us. This was one of the best workshops I have been to and found the material to be current and applicable. I liked how you switched commentators to keep it from getting boring with just one person always talking.”

Impact Evaluation. This project has engaged over 20,000 participants using a range of methods and varying degrees of formality. The impact of the work was most closely observed in direct consultations, followed by evaluation responses from workshops. This is covered more fully in the Impact of Results / Outcomes section.

Research results and discussion:

In summary this project has helped to engage 21,010 participants in some way resulting in 3,894 contact hours and delivery of knowledge to farmers and processors in the area of food storage.

The key results of this project were:

Development of a farmer and processor oriented storage curriculum with a variety of delivery methods and intensities. As noted above, an outline curriculum including learning objectives and adult learner oriented activities has been developed and refined over the project period. By initially creating the full day workshop material, shorter more focused sessions were easy to tailor for later delivery opportunities such as trade association meetings, conferences and webinars. The workshop slides and handouts are housed on the resources web page noted below.

Delivery of workshop-based educational programming. Educational activity included workshops, meeting/conference presentations, webinars, website resources, and individual consultations. A total of 7 workshops, 4 meeting presentations, and 2 webinars were delivered reaching 1,122 participants with a total of 2,200 contact hours. Workshops were the most formal and intensive form of educational programming ranging from full-day (6.5 hour) to tailored (1.5 hour) formats and reaching 337 participants. Meeting and conference presentations were a way of extending the workshop material in more summarized form to a broader audience throughout the region. These sessions generally lasted 30 to 45 minutes and engaged larger numbers of direct participants (725), often with follow-up email and phone engagement after the meeting. Two webinars were delivered reaching 60 participants.

Delivery of direct consultations. Direct consults are generally by email, phone and site visit. Approximately 660 direct consultations have been provided in parallel with or as a direct result of this project. These consultations resulted in 1,320 additional contact hours.

Development of a consolidated crop storage resource webpage. To support continued use of the project outputs, they have been consolidated along with other relevant resources on a Crop Storage Resources Webpage (http://blog.uvm.edu/cwcallah/crop-storage-resources/). This page is maintained regularly as new resources or information become available. The website has had 6,000-7,000 page views per year with an average visit duration of 1.2 minutes resulting in a total of 374 contact hours from 2013 to 2015.

Research conclusions:

Project evaluation was focused on surveys of direct workshop participants and observation during field visits. Workshops were evaluated with 337 surveys being distributed electronically and in hardcopy. We had 103 responses (30% response rate) which indicated that 97% of participants learned something new and useful from the workshop. A majority of these respondents (80%) had plans to change behavior or systems based on their participation.

Technical service providers and educational professionals also valued the project outputs, especially having a single website to return to for additional learning or to refer clients and students to. Several grant-making organizations have started to focus on supporting development of storage facilities and have noted that their application and review process has benefited from this project’s output.

Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

The majority of this project was focused on educational events as noted above. The delivery of workshops, webinars, presentations and direct consultations depended on the development of a strong set of resources, centrally housed. Key project outputs were consolidated on the Crop Storage Resource Webpage hosted on the UVM Extension Agricultural Engineering Blog (http://blog.uvm.edu/cwcallah/crop-storage-resources/).

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Although farm viability impact was not directly measured as part of this project, work on related projects offers insight into the potential impact. Work done to provide direct consultation and to demonstrate remote monitoring systems for winter storage crops in Vermont noted a reduction in cull rate at pack-out translating to improved farm revenue and profit (Callahan and Grubinger, 2015). That project “installed environmental monitoring equipment to improve storage conditions and ultimately the quality of 1,736 tons of winter storage crops at 9 farms throughout Vermont.  The cumulative market value of these storage crops produced during the 2012-2014 growing seasons was $3.5 million.   Improved storage monitoring led to better control of storage conditions, in part through automated notification to farmers when abnormal conditions were occurring. This allowed for prompt correction of problems such as open doors and failing or inoperative cooling equipment. Losses of storage crops (cull rates) were reduced from ~15% to ~5% of stored volume. Sixty-six energy efficiency measures were also implemented at 5 of these farms, saving a total of 40,269 kWh of electricity and $5,800 annually.  The systems deployed have increased the confidence of growers to expand their winter storage of Vermont-grown vegetables, leading to an increased supply of local produce outside of the traditional growing and marketing season. According to the USDA Census of Agriculture, the average vegetable farm in the Northeast has gross sales of $80,000, so a 10% reduction in cull can mean additional revenue of $8,000 or more. Depending on the size of the farm, these reductions in cull rates can lead to significant improvement in profitability. In the words of one partner farm, “When you start selling even 10% more product that would normally be composted you starting to talk about money that can be used to hire another employee.”

Farmer Adoption

This project has led to improvements of storage systems at farms throughout the region. The specific extent of the impact is challenging to determine since participants and methods were so varied. However, adoption and change of practice at farms who received direct consultation was often immediate since the need for the consult was related to a construction project that was underway. These changes included;

  • upgrading thermostats for improved control
  • improved sealing of cooler envelope for improved efficiency
  • changing storage conditions (temperature and humidity) to be more optimal for a specific crop
  • adding storage zones to enable more tailored storage conditions
  • paying closer attention to pre-harvest and harvest conditions (e.g. curing of potatoes and onions, chilling injury of squash that can occur any night it drops below 50 F)
  • installation of remote monitoring system to track conditions and alert of deviations

Participant feedback about the impact of the programming on them and any intended change is provided below.

“We are new to our farm and are developing our growing plans. One aspect is knowing options for crop storage. Seeing and learning the science behind what we will be dealing with were important to us to learn from this work especially because it was presented in a manner that made it accessible and fun.” Middlebury 2014 Workshop participant.

“It seems simple, but the concept of actually having a precise and accurate thermostat hadn’t crossed my mind. We arranged for a walk-in cooler to be installed and sort of assumed the thermostat that was installed with it was good. It wasn’t. This workshop helped me to appreciate the need for paying attention to storage conditions with better systems.” Shelburne 2013 Workshop Participant.

“In addition to the workshop, I am also looking forward to spending time on your crop storage resources website. It is really good to know about USDA Handbook 66 which seems to be a great resource.” Berlin 2014 Workshop Participant.

“The workshop helped me understand that I may be able to achieve more appropriate storage conditions for some of my crops by simply moving them within my cooler.” Berlin 2014 Workshop Participant.

“It was helpful to learn about the impact of growing conditions, harvest and postharvest handling on storage quality and life.” Berlin 2014 Workshop Participant.

“I thought the practice exercises in small groups was a huge practical piece of the program. It allowed us to understand how to use the tools you gave us. This was one of the best workshops I have been to and found the material to be current and applicable. I liked how you switched commentators to keep it from getting boring with just one person always talking.” Shelburne 2013 Workshop participant.

“The pre-cooler is a new idea that we will implement. We’ve also learned cooler separation of apple varieties is crucial for our storage. The hand outs are very much appreciated and are great for quick reference.” Shelburne 2013 Workshop Participant

“I greatly enjoyed and benefited from this workshop. I thought it was very well conceived and executed. I was also able to immediately use much of the information in one of my courses at [the VT State College where I teach], so that my students also benefited. Thank you for providing this!” St. Johnsbury 2013 Workshop Participant

“We are building a new storage facility with many different conditions and all the info I learned will be very useful, particularly handbook 66, and figuring out what goes together, as well as the info given on refrigeration and humidification options.” White River Junction 2013 Participant

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

This project helped to improve the regional crop storage knowledge base. But it also helped to identify areas needing significant future work including:

  • educational programming on precooling and curing of crops
  • storage planning and sizing tools, such as calculators
  • regionally specific crop variety understanding and breeding informed by postharvest quality considerations
  • consolidated packing house, handling and washing information with regional specificity
  • farm-based, hands-on workshops and/or tours that highlight farmer practices to address postharvest needs
  • improved programming related to the food safety implications of postharvest operations in the region
  • development of improved relative humidity measurement and control

The PI and others have initiated several projects based on this additional need including:

  • Development of a regional network, the Northeast Postharvest Research and Extension Service Hub (NE-PHRESH), which brings together those in the region working in postharvest areas to discuss remaining research and educational needs, share research and resources, collaborate on joint proposals and programming, and provide peer review of materials. One goal of this group is to establish a regional postharvest research center where additional work can be done, e.g. variety evaluation for postharvest performance, equipment evaluations, practice demonstration.
  • Development of a crop storage planning tool that estimates the storage zones and volumes needed based on user input of each crop they plan to store and determines. This is in beta release and is based on information from USDA Handbook 66 and others.
  • Development of an improved electronic psychrometer specifically intended for use in produce storage systems.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.