Allison Wakeland
Allison Wakeland
Middle School Third Place Winner - 2012 Food Engineering Essay Contest
Hillsboro, Missouri
Engineering Applesauce

Applesauce is a healthy, delicious treat. Have you ever thought of how it gets from a farm to your table? The planting, harvesting, and processing techniques described in this essay, show the vital role that agricultural, chemical, civil, electrical, and mechanical engineers play in the production of applesauce.

Commercial applesauce production starts on high density apple orchards with about 600-700 trees per acre. Tree planting machines that are designed by mechanical engineers make planting fast and easy. Most orchards are planted with rows running north to south to achieve maximum light. After planting, the trees are watered with an irrigation system. Mechanical engineers would help size the pipes and the pumps that would deliver water to the trees. Agricultural engineers would determine the location of the water and the distance horizontally and vertically the water has to travel. Then a liquid transplant fertilizer, formulated by chemical engineers, is applied around the new tree. High density orchards use tree shakers and harvesters, also designed by mechanical engineers, to harvest tons of apples. Tree shakers are devices that shake loose the apples without damaging the tree. Harvesters are implements that sweep up large quantities of apples from the ground. The swept up apples then travel up an auger and are deposited into a bin. The bins from the harvesters are transferred to a waiting trailer.

The trailers haul the apples to an apple processing plant. The building was designed by civil engineers, the metal equipment inside was designed by mechanical engineers, and the electrical services were designed by electrical engineers. Processing begins with the apples traveling up a conveyer for inspection. Next the apples go by conveyer to a brush washer. This machine rotates and sprays the apples with water. They are rinsed with chlorinated water and go to an orienting table. This device turns the apple to get the stem or blossom end up. Next the apples are cored and peeled. Afterwards a chopper cuts up the apples so they can cook uniformly. Then the chopped apples travel by conveyer to the cooker.

The live steam injection cooker is an engineer designed technology critical to applesauce production. Pairs of stainless steel tubes on the outside of the cooker bring in 150 pounds of high pressure steam through holes in the bottom of the cooker. A screw conveyer moves the chopped apples through the cooker. In two to three minutes the apples will be fully cooked and ready for finishing. Mechanical engineers design the high pressure tubing, screw conveyer, and cooker. Electrical engineers designed the system controls and power distribution to maintain the desired pressure and flow of steam. The conveyer is programed to move at the right pace to cook the apples properly.

The final steps of processing include finishing, filling, and packaging. The finisher is a large colander-like separating device with a rotating paddle inside. Waste products are discarded through small holes and the finished product goes to a filler. At the filler, hot applesauce is pumped into cans. Then a seamer quickly applies the lids and seals the cans. The cans are coded with the date, time, and plant of processing by a video jet coder. Conveyers twist the cans upside down to sterilize the lids with the hot applesauce. The cans are transferred to coolers and their temperature is brought down to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Then the cans travel through a labeler that automatically applies the labels to the cans. The cans are put in boxes, and then a palletizer stacks the boxes on pallets. A shrink wrapper machine wraps the entire pallet of boxes in plastic shrink wrap to hold them together during shipping.  The pallets are moved by a fork lift to a warehouse for storage. Tractor trailers transport applesauce to grocery stores and other food distributors. Finally, consumers purchase the applesauce and enjoy it.  Without engineers the world we know would be very different. Engineers have made it possible to mass-produce products at lower costs for consumers around the world.