The NZ HortBin® is a telling example of innovation achieved through inter-industry partnerships. In 2008, Viscount Plastics approached the kiwifruit industry to propose working together on the development of a world-class plastic harvest bin. The proposal, and the company's commitment to invest in the project, won buy-in from various industry bodies and leading packhouses. What followed was four years of research that included sponsoring a master's thesis into effects of wood and plastic harvesting bins on kiwifruit and other horticultural products, design development, production testing and field trials. In July this year, the NZ HortBin® will be launched.
By virtue of being the harvest bin that best protects the quality characteristics demanded by local and international consumers of New Zealand grown Kiwifuit – a fruit known for its extreme vulnerability to physical and environmental damage – the NZ HortBin® is for all intents and purposes tailor-made for all sectors of the horticultural industry.
Manufactured from non-porous, food-grade polypropylene, the smooth, seamless interior surfaces and gently radiused corners of the NZ HortBin® cradle the rounded and curved shapes of produce to achieve better pack-out rates than wooden bins where produce is bruisingly forced into four unforgiving 90 degree corners.
External ribs further contribute to the NZ HortBin®'s combination of light weight and high strength, adding up to far greater long term durability than the wooden bin. Warping generally occurs as wooden bins age. This allows contents to move around and become damaged during transport. The NZ HortBin® has been designed and manufactured to retain its dimensional stability throughout its working life – also an important consideration in the packhouse environment. Among additional design and manufacturing considerations answered by the NZ HortBin® has a 4.5 tonne stacking weight, RFID compatability and bin label holder.
The NZ HortBins® non-porosity is a product benefit with a number of important pluses. The weight of produce in the bin is not compromised by the weight of moisture soaked into the wood. But it is not only rain water that soaks into wooden bins. Contaminants are also absorbed. These can range from chemical sprays to disease causing bacteria and viruses. An obvious and key benefit of the plastic NZ HortBin®'s non-porous seamless interior surfaces is being able to be easily and thoroughly washed hygienically clean.
Whereas a wooden crate lacks ventilation, the NZ HortBins® accurately engineered slots in the side walls and floor encourage quality-benefiting airflow which by limiting heat absorption reduces energy costs for cooling and also promotes quicker drying and de-greening. Research as part of the master's thesis showed ventilation slots of the NZ HortBin® are to be non-damaging to contents.
New Zealand's exotic forest have long been a fast-growing renewable resource supplying the country with vast quantities of relatively inexpensive wood. However, it is almost certain carbon trading will bring about wood price increases, with some predictions that these could be considerable. The NZ HortBin® effectively future-proofs the horticultural industry against this eventuality.
What's more, from an environmental perspective, plastic is internationally recognised as having a far smaller carbon footprint than wood and by virtue of being recycled as raw material for further plastics product, offers greater sustainability and an almost nil impact on waste disposal pressures. Viscount Plastics are also working with Plastic Recylcers to implement a buy-back programme for NZ HortBins® at the end of their service life.
Compared with plastic, the wooden harvest bin is a loser. It loses produce quality which in turn loses income. It further loses money through costs it requires for cooling contents, transportation (even empty wood is heavier than plastic) and maintenance.
Currently the up-front cost of a wooden harvest bin is less than the NZ HortBin®. But in terms of value for money there is no comparison. With the wooden harvest bin horticulturalists are purchasing on-going loses. With the NZ HortBin®, on going gains. So much so, that the master's thesis research found it would take just five growing seasons for the plastic bin to pay for itself. The thesis further noted that the plastic harvest bin would recover more than its costs by savings on less produce rejection.
New Zealand's horticultural exports have in just 20 years grown from $NZ200 million to $NZ2.3 billion annually, taking the industry to No.6 on the country's list of export earners. A remarkable achievement considering this is an industry that arguably is allowing itself to be held back by New Zealand's ability to grow trees.
In a country recognised as an early adopter of change, wood, along with single trip cardboard packaging, has an almost unfathomable hold over New Zealand primary industries. It's now 20 years since the start of the switch to plastic and here we are, the last of the world's significant horticultural regions still picking into, transporting and storing the vast majority of our produce in wooden harvest bins.
With most of the estimated 2.1 million harvest bins currently in circulation made of wood, each time one is used it downgrades the quality and income earning potential of a percentage of its contents. These economic losses are caused by abrasion damage, weight compaction bruising, rapid deterioration as a consequence of negligible ventilation, and weight loss in a controlled atmosphere environment. Add to those the wooden bin's hygiene issues, moisture absorption and susceptibility to handling damage.
But like the 'time machine' of science fiction, the recently launched Viscount Plastics NZ HortBin® can instantly transport the country's horticultural industry through 20 years of lost earnings potential to the present day and in terms of the bin's features and benefits, even a few steps into the future.
With 120,000 annual production capacity of the food-grade polypropylene NZ HortBin®, Viscount Plastics is confident in its capability to supply the market and maintain competitive market pricing. After all, this is the company that developed and produced the highly successful 'Recrate', now recognised as the industry standard stacker bar produce crate.
Check out what our customers have to say about the NZ HortBin® here: