Innovations to be unveiled at Fruit Focus

Companies will introduce various products from tractors to packaging at the event, says Rachel Sixsmith.

A range of new products are on show at this year's Fruit Focus event, which takes place on 21 July at East Malling in Kent.

Manufacturer of polytunnel films, polythene tunnel covers, greenhouse control films, thermal and solar radiation control films, crop covers and mulch films bpi.visqueen is revealing details of its 12-month, £5m investment project at its Ardeer, Ayrshire site.

The project - due to complete later this year - is seeing the construction of two new extrusion halls and the addition of a new, state-of-the-art, five-layer wide film line. This line will allow the manufacturer to offer products such as polytunnel films and greenhouse films with more performance characteristics to benefit growers.

Company representatives are also going to be talking to visitors about its latest product research and development efforts - including the sponsorship of two PhD researchers.

The first, Eslam Elfadly, is coming to the end of a three-year project at Lancaster University, investigating the effects of differing UV environments on the crop yield and quality of peppers. The second, Wael Semida - a researcher at Reading and Fayoum University - is researching the next generation of summer heat-control film technology and new winter thermic films.

The findings of both researchers will be used by bpi.visqueen to inform new product development and to help maintain its technological lead in the international marketplace.

Through its close working relationship with Lancaster University, bpi.visqueen is one of only two industrial partners contributing to a recently launched and landmark EU COST (European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research) project.

The four-year project brings together 36 internationally renowned research groups from 17 EU and non-EU countries and aims to develop an integrated vision on the regulatory role of UV light in crop growth in a changing climate.

Tractor developments

The new narrow-width Claas Nexos and Elios tractor ranges - launched in late 2009 - are on display at Fruit Focus for the first time this year. Claas is also displaying the Cam Pilot row-following steering system.

The new Claas Nexos range is available in four models (210, 220, 230 and 240) and three variants - the VE, VL and F - with minimum overall widths of 1m, 1.26m and 1.46m respectively. Each model includes a combination of wheelbase, weight distribution and lift capacity, enabling the Nexos to lift and pull heavy objects.

The Claas Elios range - with power outputs of 72hp, 78hp and 88hp - shares the same type of 3.2litre engine as the Nexos. It has a cab height of 2.4m and is fitted with a more spacious cab than the narrow-width Nexos making it ideal for field work as well as work in polytunnels or glass-houses.

Class - in addition to offering a full range of GPS steering systems up to full RTK - has also developed the Cam Pilot row-following camera system.

Cam Pilot uses a camera mounted on the front of the tractor to three-dimensionally scan field structures such as crop rows or soil ridges. It then uses these images to automatically steer the tractor to an accuracy of 2-3cm, which is similar to that from RTK.

This makes Cam Pilot ideal for op- erations such as inter-row cultivating in strawberries, as it helps to ensure high accuracy without the risk of crop damage.

Packaging news

Plastic pallets and boxes supplier is exhibiting to the fruit industry for the first time this year to encourage more growers to switch from corrugated and cardboard packaging to its plastic alternatives.

It is showcasing a variety of products, including fruit crates, soft-fruit trays and boxes that nest, stack and fold.

Also on show will be the company's latest addition to its expanding box range - the GoBox 2500CL. It is a collapsible crate that can help businesses cut their transportation costs as well as noise pollution.

Gromax is promoting its latest polymer-based products including its organically certified, compostable polymer mulching film which has been developed to help growers bring down their disposal costs.

Heavy-duty transport

A new version of Landini's Rex tractor for soft, top-fruit and grape growers needing a compact but heavy-duty tractor is being launched at Fruit Focus. Variations of the model have been improved by engineers at the Argo Tractors development centre in Italy.

There are three build variations: F is the narrow model for small orchards and narrow-spaced trees; the GE is a little wider but lower; and the GT has a stance that gives it good stability for work in fields and more open orchards.

Landini specialist Eamon Howden said: "The new versions of the Rex are easily identified by the restyled hood design, which has a larger cooling air intake area, and the rectangular instead of round front lights. Underneath, though, it's 'original Rex' with many refinements improving an already successful package."

Meanwhile, the "high rise" configuration of the Landini Powerfarm HC continues to be available with the popular power shuttle transmission.

New strawberry variety

Netherlands-based Vissers Aardbeiplanten is introducing the strawberry variety "Elianny" to UK growers at Fruit Focus. The breed, which originated in 1998, ripens a few days before Elsanta.

- /edibles for more edibles news

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