Labor is one of the most pressing issues affecting the global produce industry today. According to the USDA, growers are increasingly looking to reduce production costs or switch to crops that require less labor. The JBT T-Series Bin Scrubber, an innovative labor-saving solution for the nut industry, is one of the ways JBT is able to help.
The current challenges facing producers should not be understated. The USDA reported in 2022 that labor’s share of the cost of production can run as high as 38% for fruit and tree nut farms and 29% for vegetables and melons.
To compound matters, the USDA revealed the average hourly earnings of U.S. field and livestock workers were outpacing non-farm wages. Between 2001 and 2019, these increased by 16% compared with an average 5% rise for non-farm workers. Despite this, producers continue to struggle to find enough workers to harvest crops.
The challenge in numbers
So what are the most labor-intensive jobs in the produce business and where can savings to be made through automation? You may be surprised to learn that the task of cleaning produce bins – used for everything from almonds and bananas to avocados – comes close to the top of the list, with an estimated cost of up to US $1.25 per bin per day.
A leading Texas-based citrus organization calculated that the minimum labor bill for manually cleaning an average of 75,000 bins of fruit per year can total nearly $94,000. And that’s before water consumption is taken into account.
But why the need to clean? Produce bins, which are used to ferry fruit and nuts from orchards to packing houses, can carry dangerous bacteria if left uncleaned, leaving open the danger of food contamination incidents and litigation.
The T-Series Bin Scrubber
Capable of cleaning a bin every 40 seconds, JBT’s T-Series Bin Scrubber is helping nut and fruit companies respond to consumer and retail demands for greater sustainability, without compromising operation speeds.
The Bin Scrubber is superior to other bin cleaning solutions thanks to its unique brush-head mechanism which mechanically removes soil in a fast, efficient process.
The system also allows customers to make savings in two key areas. Firstly, it helps make savings on plastic consumption, improving customers’s sustainability records. Secondly – with a throughput of 90 bins per hour – the Bin Scrubber can save significant time and money that would previously be invested in manual cleaning.
JBT has also been quick to respond to individual challenges, an example being the problem of water remaining in the bins. In response, JBT engineers invented brand-new drying equipment, which is now available as an add-on for Bin Scrubber customers. This Bin Dryer removes any remaining water, ensuring bins are ready to use again as soon as they come off the line.