Doing it Right

Leighton Rice knows that growers want simple solutions for simple problems. He knows that growers want solutions that are affordable, scalable, and manageable. He knows this because he has been working in the apple industry for fifteen years in his family's business, Rice Fruit Company, one of the nation's leading wholesale suppliers of fresh apples. In 2016, he reached out to Chris Toner from Team Design Group to tackle the problem of stem punctures. Chris helped Leighton turn his vision into reality. Now, with help from the team at DiveDesign, they are ready to present StemPunk for the 2021 harvest season. But be careful...he's got some attitude!

   

LR- Stem Clipper (44 of 68)_edited.jpg
IMG_E1593.JPG

The First Problem

  • Hard angles and ridges at the ends of apple stems cause damage to other apples when they are comingled in picking bags, bulk bins, and on packing lines.

  • An apple that is punctured becomes unclassified by USDA standards and must be sold as juice.

  • Stem punctures can be as high as 6% in tree run fruit and those numbers increase for operations that presort fruit back into bins.

  • According to the USDA Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts 2019 Summary, the loss in premium from fresh grade to processing is $0.26/Lb. as an average across the industry. For higher-value varieties, such as Honeycrisp, this difference could be more than five times greater.

  • Conservative estimates suggest that stem punctures, in terms of direct damages, cause $50 million in losses to the US apple industry every year. 

IMG_E1596.JPG

The Second Problem

  • Punctured skin on an apple offers an easy entry point for molds and rots in storage, allowing for secondary infections to spread to nearby fruit.

  • Punctured fruit often goes undetected in the sorting process, thus compromising the quality of the pack and risking costly repacks and rejections from customers.

  • Punctured fruit that remains in a pack is not likely to be sold at the retail level and represents waste.  

IMG_1701.PNG

The Third Problem

  • Until now, hand-clippers were the only tools available to combat the problem of stem punctures.

  • Trimming stems with hand-clippers is inefficient because the picker is mostly reduced to picking with one hand.

  • It is estimated that the average picker, paid hourly, goes from picking 15 bushels per hour, down to 10 bushels per hour when stem-clipping. That is a 33% loss in efficiency and a ~50% increase in picking costs per bushel!

  • Hand-clippers often cause damage to apples if they are not used skillfully.

  • Hand-clippers can cause inefficient and unsafe handling of ladders by workers inasmuch as they interfere with dexterity.

  • Hand-clippers are misplaced easily. 

  • The picture to the left was clipped from a brief video. Watch it here to get a better understanding of the limitations of stem-clipping with hand clippers...and then watch this comparison of StemPunk in action...  

Solution

StemPunk: a dual-dexterous, hands-free stem-clipper that attaches to the picker's front. Trim stems efficiently and safely for the modern market.

 

Read the White Page for more background on StemPunk and the Technical Brief for more descriptions about the device. 

IMG_E1597 cropped.jpg