David’s Fruit is a grower and packer of fruit and vegetables that supplies retail markets across the globe. Its produce includes fresh exotic vegetables, sweet potatoes, squash and strawberries.
The strawberries are grown in the Sharon area in the centre of Israel, ten miles northeast of Tel Aviv, while the growing and packing of sweet potatoes is done on a privately-owned farm in northern Israel called the Kibutz Eilon.
The market for sweet potatoes is cyclical, with crops supplied to the European market from August through to January, with US farms supplying mainly Beauregarde variety from January to August.
With the market for exotic out-of-season vegetables increasing, the Kibutz Eilon decided to increase its efficiency with the construction of a purpose-built sweet potato packing facility.
David’s Fruit is expected to market 4,000t of conventional and organic sweet potatoes during the 2007-08 season, with possible plans to boost production for 2008-09.
In November 2007, David’s Fruit announced the opening of a purpose-designed packhouse for sweet potatoes. The new facility has boosted packing capacity by 400% and was custom designed and installed by Eshet Eilon.
The sweet potatoes are harvested using mechanical equipment and are then passed to the packhouse. Bins of tubers outside the building are emptied into a water bath. The sweet potatoes are moved by water flow into the building and then washed and scrubbed using a brush system to remove the adhering earth.
The cleaning process continues with the tubers being transferred to a roller belt and then sprayed with a hot water mist. The rollers are spaced widely enough so that any further earth and unwanted material attached to the tubers can fall through and be removed by a secondary belt.
The movement roller system is fitted with brushes to remove sand. The tubers then move into a large drier where they are treated with yeast to prevent them becoming mouldy during transportation to market.
The dry tubers are then hand graded to remove the damaged potatoes. The tubers, which are deemed suitable, are then passed to a conveyor and a sophisticated electronic eye and weighing system.
The electronic system was introduced to allow better determination of tuber grade and assist in the differentiation between grades.
Each batch of produce has a full traceability code attached, including time harvested and packed and origin within the farm. The results of the weight/eye inspection allow fruit to be diverted down on to specific lines according to grade and then packed into corrugated cardboard packaging and finally boxes ready for shipping.