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The world of apples

The world of apples

Lana is South Tyrol's leading apple community. A look behind the scenes of Lanafruit, one of the two local fruit growers' cooperatives, shows how much work and technology go into the apple business.

Approx. 500 agricultural businesses are located in Lana, harvesting a total of about 70,000 tonnes of apples each year. The 350 members of Lanafruit alone produce some 55,000 tonnes grown on approx. 900 hectares. The harvest starts on 15th August, when the sweet red Gala apples are ripe, and ends in November when the juicy, sweet and sour Pink Lady variety is ready to be harvested.

Norbert Schnitzer, foreman at Lanafruit, is proud to be part
of South Tyrol’s leading apple community. “But sure, it’s a lot of hard work”, the 65-year-old admits. Back in 2009, the two cooperatives Pomus and Lana Frucht merged (Lana Frucht had previously already merged with Ogol), forming what is now known as Lanafruit. The cooperative is responsible for storing, sorting and selling the apples produced. The farmers get all the money they make once the expenses have been deducted from the total revenue.
Total sales amount to approx. 35 to 40 million euros per
year, of which approx. 20 million go to the Lanafruit members.
Schnitzer puts on his cap, and off we go on our tour of the cooperative facilities. At the front of the building, farmers arrive to deliver their bulging fruit crates. Every crate is numbered and barcoded before being sent to a several metre-high warehouse with top-notch cooling technology. “We remove oxygen from the air”, Schnitzer explains. All cold-storage rooms are cooled down to 2–2.5 °C (35–37 °F), humidity is brought up to 90–100% and the oxygen content in the air is reduced to 1–1.5%. This makes it pos -
sible to supply top-quality apples year round.

Before they can be sold, the sweet fruits are sorted. A conveyor belt transports them to the scanner of the high-tech sorting machine, which sorts the apples by quality. Modern analysis systems define the quality of the apples based on factors such as colour, size and weight. Approximately 70 photos are taken of each and every piece of fruit that passes through within milliseconds – a pure high-tech experience. “Our default settings define the sorting criteria. The arriving apples are directed to the corresponding water-filled track”, Schnitzer explains, and has to raise his voice to be heard above the noise of the machine. One track is filled with green apples, another with yellow ones and a third with red ones. A suction-based filling mechanism located below the waterline directs the pre-sorted fruits to the crates. “The apples are delicate and stay in the water the whole time to make sure they don’t get damaged in the process”, Schnitzer says. The water is channelled in a closed cycle and is continuously filtered, cleaned and reused.
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Every day, some 80 to 85 workers man the packing unit, the last section of the modern facility, and hand-pack the apples into little crates and boxes. A total of 100 employees ensure that the overall process at Lanafruit runs smoothly. In the past, apples from Lana were mainly sold in Italy and exported to Germany, but the market has changed and their customers are now far more international. Scandinavia, Spain and Northern Africa have become key markets. “Before the war, Libya was our best sales market”, Schnitzer says. India is another key customer, and getting the apples across to the Indian market is a major challenge.
Shipping by vessel takes up to two months. “Sales and technology have changed, and managing all these rocesses is far from easy”, Schnitzer admits. But he is not worried about retiring from his position at some point in the future. “We have some excellent and talented young people here at our company, so it will be no problem for me to leave my job to them”.
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