Post Harvest Loss
The loss of fruit post harvest was a pervasive issue throughout the globe. Estimates put postharvest losses at around 25% worldwide and up to 50% in developing countries, which lacked infrastructure to carefully harvest, handle, and transport fruits and vegetables.
Already battling the natural process of senescence, growers faced additional complicating factors that made the fresh produce global supply chain even more precarious and led to a large waste problem that was prevalent throughout the globe.
Due to its high water content and typically soft texture, fresh produce was extremely susceptible to physical injury. Physical injury could occur during almost all steps of the supply chain, from harvest to delivery. During shipping, it could occur from packing fruits or vegetables in damaged or splintered boxes or crates, from overpacking boxes, and from dropping, throwing, or walking over containers. Injuries to the produce such as scrapes, cuts, or bruising (both internal and external) not only created entry points for bacteria and mold but also sped up the senescence process (both respiration and transpiration).
Postharvest fruits and vegetables were susceptible to injury from both cold and hot temperature extremes. While temperature tolerance varied across types of produce, nearly all produce saw significant effects, such as rapid decay, from exposure to freezing temperatures as well as to high temperatures. If exposed to high temperatures and not cooled down, produce became unusable. A successful effort to cool produce after a simple exposure to high temperature often kept the produce in a salable state.
Disease in postharvest produce was most commonly caused by fungi and bacteria. Disease was spread by microscopic spores and was often not visible to the grower, packer, shipper, or retailer. While disease entered produce most easily through cuts or scrapes in the skin, an undamaged product could be infected through its lenticels or through the stem or calyx cavities. Infection could happen at nearly any point during the harvesting, packing, and delivering process with the use of contaminated or improper equipment or handling techniques. Typically, modernized industrial packinghouses used fungicide and washing operations for fresh produce before it was shipped to its destination.