Whether you're transporting your fruits and vegetables from the field to the packhouse or the packhouse to the markets, finding the right crates to keep them safe and secure on their journeys is vital. Every bump and scrape your produce endures on the road will lower its value and ability to sell quickly, and the conscientious fruit or vegetable farmer makes sure that their crates are up to the task of protecting their valuable cargo.
However, there are a wide variety of different fruit and vegetable crates on offer, and choosing the right ones for your needs can be a challenge. To help steer you in the right direction, ask yourself the following questions before buying any new crates for transporting your fragile cargoes:
Should I use wooden or plastic crates?
The vast majority of produce crates are made from timber or tough plastics, and each material is more than durable enough to give your fruits and vegetables the protection they require on the road. Your choice of crate material is therefore largely down to personal preference, but there are some unique advantages associated with each material.
Timber crates are prized by many for their versatility and the excellent ventilation their widely-spaced slats provide. If a timber crate degrades to the point that it is unusable, it can be easily disassembled and any intact sections of wood re-purposed for other uses; alternatively, they can be recycled easily, a good way to keep your growing operation's carbon footprint low.
On the other hand, plastic crates tend to be easier to stack, and are much more uniform in dimension and appearance to maximise packing and shipping efficiency. Plastic crates are also easy to wash, a particularly important concern if any of your fruits or vegetables get waylaid and rot inside their crates before they can be sold.
How will my crates be loaded onto transport vehicles?
If you and your workers load your produce crates onto transport trucks by hand, any sort of crate will generally do as long as they can easily be stacked. Plastic crates can be a little lighter and less cumbersome to carry than their timber counterparts, but both types of crate are easily man-portable even when fully loaded.
However, your choice of crate is more important if you used forklifts and pallets to load large amounts of produce onto transport vehicles. In these circumstances, you should choose a crate design specifically made to work with pallets; most crates intended for pallet loading are made from plastic, and are manufactured to specific dimensions so they can easily be stacked onto pallets without toppling.
How fragile are the fruits and vegetables I grow?
If you deal in relatively robust fruits vegetables, such as potatoes or turnips, deep crates with high carrying capacities can be a good way to save space and pack the maximum amount of produce onto a single vehicle. More fragile fruits and vegetables, such as salad leaves and citrus fruits, require more care, and can be damaged and crushed if packed too deeply into a large capacity crate.
These fragile fruits and vegetables will benefit more from shallow crates, which hold less produce individually but can be loaded onto a vehicle in larger numbers. Shallow crates prevent produce at the bottom of your crates getting crushed, and provide more effective ventilation to prevent premature wilting of fragile fruits and vegetables with high water content.