May 5, 2015
UGA working to avoid blueberry damage during harvest

Forget about Georgia peaches. It’s time to talk about Georgia blueberries, which are now the state’s No. 1 fruit crop.

With a growing crop comes growing demand. How can farmers cut their losses? Avoid damage during harvest.

Atlanta’s NPR station, 90.1 WABE, explains:

Researchers at the University of Georgia won a $2.37 million grant from the USDA to develop technology to help small to mid-size blueberry growers.

During the harvesting process, a lot of blueberries get squashed. Machines do their best, but a lot of the time, they leave something to be desired.

“You know, the quality’s not very good,”says Changying “Charlie”Li. “They usually cannot be sold as a fresh market fruit in a grocery store or a supermarket.”

So the damaged blueberries get relegated to processed foods – like blueberry muffins.

Li is an associate professor at the University of Georgia’s College of Engineering. He’s leading a national project with 10 universities to build a semi-mechanical harvester that is gentle on the blueberries.

To help him do that, he developed a Berry Impact Recording Device.

Video of the Berry Impact Recording Device is available here.

According to the radio station, Li hopes the technology will help farmers harvest more blueberries and make them cheaper for consumers. He expects a prototype will be ready by the end of this year.

Other parties involved include: University of Florida, Michigan State University, Mississippi State University, North Carolina State University, Oregon State University, Penn State, Washington State University, University of California Berkeley, and the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

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