Emerging fruit crops, such as elderberry and aroniaberry, are important value-added crops for small farmers in the rural areas of North Central Region (NCR). Research has proven that developing those native fruit crops as commercial crops will increase incomes and life quality of local farmers, and will also benefit the sustainability of agriculture and ecosystem. However, the low efficiency in harvesting and handling berries (fruits) has been identified as the biggest barrier for the development of elderberry industry according to research funded by SARE. Elderberry farmers in Missouri have developed destemmers to increase the efficiency, but they feel that manual handling (sanitizing and rinsing) needs to be improved to scale up their planting areas. The major goal of this project is to assist local elderberry farmers to develop an automated elderberry handling system that integrates destemming, sanitizing and rinsing procedures to increase the efficiency of fruit handling. The developed system will optimize the destemmer, reduce exposure of farmers to hazard sanitizing solution and their labor intensity, and attract more farmers to grow elderberry and boost the elderberry industry. The project aligns with the priority of NCR-SARE in promoting sustainable agriculture and in improve the life quality of rural communities.
Project objectives from proposal:
The goal is to develop an efficient fruit handling system for elderberries to allow automatically destem, sanitizing and rinsing berries, and potentially for other small fruits and vegetables. The specific objectives include (1) survey and evaluation of the existing technologies used for handling fruits and vegetables; (2) development of a prototype of a handling system for elderberry by adopting and optimizing existing technologies, and (3) evaluation of the developed system in performance and economics. The success of this project will demonstrate and deliver an efficient system for handling elderberries and boost elderberry industry.