For your standard consumer, the brix rating may not mean a great deal, but, for those closely involved in the growing of fruit, it is a measure of critical importance as they strive to deliver the perfect product.
Basically, the rating is the measure of the sugar content in an aqueous solution and the brix meter at Habata Agri in the Sundays River Valley is among the farming concern’s key pieces of equipment.
Habata operations manager Gary Webb said they had to make sure that each customer’s requirements were met when it came to the sweetness of the produce.
“Each of the supermarkets we supply have a set of specs with which we need to comply,” he said.
“For instance, the melon in a box might need to have a brix rating of 10 so on every load that goes out we have to do a quality control.”
He added it was not realistic to measure every fruit, but they would take a selection from each load to get a reading.
“Out of, say 80 bins, we will take three or four fruit from 10 bins for a random check and fill in a quality control report on a number of elements which is sent with each load.”
The rating is achieved by cutting a small section out of the fruit, crushing it to produce juice, which is then poured into the brix meter.
An aperture in the meter allows you to determine the brix rating.
“Our preference is to have a reading above 12,” said Webb. “However, for different needs we have to pick the fruit earlier.
“For example, if the fruit is for processing, we pick it at a stage when the brix rating is just above 10 because the crunchier it is the better it is for a salad.”
He said they had to be careful if the sugar content became too high because the fruit would ferment more easily, especially if it was not cooled properly.
“Too high a sugar content shortens the shelf life of the fruit.”
Webb said factors such as heat and overcast weather would increase the brix rating, while rain or excessive watering would bring it down.
He said there were studies being done at Stellenbosch University to try to achieve a brix rating without cutting open the fruit.
“For example, if you can get a reading by just scanning the product, you could create a sticker for each fruit with its specific rating.
“That would give you a step up on your competitors because it would enable the consumer to know exactly what they are buying.
“They are not there yet, but it is definitely something to consider for the future.”