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Published: 14 Mar 2019

Raspberries are one of the world’s most fragile fruits – hollow, soft and small – all round, pretty delicate. The fruits are not only subjected to physical damage, but also fungal attacks.

TIA PhD Candidate Ky Nha (Nha) Huynh is helping solve two interlinked problems for the Tasmanian berry industry: packaging and shelf life.

The research is part of Ms Huynh’s project with the ARC Training Centre for Innovative Horticultural Products, located at TIA.

“The shelf life of raspberries is relatively short, compared to larger fruit,” Ms Huynh said.

"The hollow structure of berries means they need to be handled with care. Washing raspberries before storage is not encouraged as moisture gets into the berry, which can favour mould growth."

"The berries need to be refrigerated to stay fresh but can also lose moisture from refrigeration. It’s really important that raspberries are stored well in the right packaging to optimise freshness and also to prevent damage.”

Ms Huynh is testing the quality of the berries after being stored for two weeks in different packaging and with different atmospheric conditions using ‘Modified Atmospheric Packaging’ or MAP.

“MAP, on its own, might not be designed for any one specific fruit or vegetable. But because it’s sealed packaging, we can alter and test the levels of natural gasses in the atmosphere,” Ms Huynh said.

“I’m trying to determine the most beneficial atmospheric composition to extend the shelf life of raspberries.”

Packaging alone is not able to control mould and decay – it needs to be tailored to suit the produce – so Ms Huynh is also researching processing methods which may help.

“Exact techniques, like using the right amount of water, are critical to the shelf life of the berries,” she said.

Ms Huynh is conducting her research with Costa Berries, which supplied the raspberries for her trials.

Costa Senior Food Safety and Quality Assurance Specialist, Ben Fisher, has been working with Ms Huynh on the project.

“There’s a lot of research and thought behind our products, and it’s fantastic to be collaborating with up-and-coming food scientists such as Nha,” Ben Fisher said.

“The berry industry is only as good as the product, and freshness and shelf life are obviously essential to avoid food waste.

“This research will contribute to making sure our storage and packaging is as good as it can be using the latest technology."

Picture: TIA PhD Candidate Ky Nha Huynh closely examines the quality of fresh raspberries.