BBC Technologies North America is helping a Michigan blueberry grower eliminate damage by spotted wing drosophila on the packing line.
The insect is increasing damage to the state’s summer blueberry crop.
South Haven, Mich.-based DeGrandchamp Farms Inc., contained the insect’s damage and avoided rejections during the 2013 season, said Mike DeGrandchamp, partner.
DeGrandchamp uses BBC’s recently introduced MK-2.5 color sorter and Dura-Touch soft sorter on its fresh fruit line to grade-out soft, green and overripe fruit, he said.
Since appearing in northwestern growing regions in 2009, the pest has quickly emerged as a threat to North American blueberries.
The fly targets ripening fruit and buries tiny eggs that grow into maggots, leading to rejected fruit, DeGrandchamp said.
First used during the past year’s harvest, the machinery allows DeGrandchamp to avoid shipping SWD-infected fruit, he said.
“As we can’t physically inspect every berry, before getting this equipment, it was impossible to grade it out,” DeGrandchamp said. “This year, however, we were able to successfully pack fruit with no detectable level of SWD, which is a big plus.”
Chip Manuel, New Zealand-based BBC’s East Coast sales manager, Savannah, Ga., said the manufacturer is focusing primarily on blueberries but is also using other technology to help sort other small round fruit including cherries, tart cherries, grape tomatoes and cherry tomatoes.
He said growers use the new software worldwide. In North America, BBC first installed the equipment in Florida and now it’s in Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan and British Columbia.
“The fact that our company’s founders own the largest blueberry farm in New Zealand gives us a unique perspective in understanding the issues that growers face every day,” Manuel said. “We’re nothing without the growers and we can’t have any surprises and need to know what are regions’ growers are doing and what their biggest issues are. If we don’t know what they need, we’re doing them a disservice, especially after such a bad season they had last year.”
The pest is becoming a logistical nightmare for growers and usually increases its presence during mid- and late season fruit in July and August, DeGrandchamp said.
DeGrandchamp markets its berries through the Grand Junction, Mich.-based MBG Marketing, a partner with Naturipe Farms LLC in Salinas, Calif.