Optical Sorters Boost Profitability For Agricultural Companies
Tuesday, April 19th, 2022
In order to maximise profits on their products, agricultural companies need to start looking towards automated sorting lines for an increase in energy savings, product quality and a decrease in production costs.
Global consumers are no longer contented in simply knowing where their food is grown. In fact, there is a growing number of people who want to know not only where their food is sourced, but how it is grown, prepared and finally delivered to their tables for consumption. Keeping these consumers in mind, it is crucial for food manufacturers to understand that the cleaning and prepping
process of their products are more important than ever. This can be achieved through the utilising of optical sorters in the production line.
An example of a company that has done so is FRESHBERRY, a producer of wild-growing berries from Russia. The enterprise is engaged in collecting, procurement, processing, and selling wild-growing berries such as blueberries, cranberries and cloudberries. In March 2020, the company utilised an automated line to clean its berries.
During the rest of the current year, the enterprise plans to produce about 6,000 tons of berries, with up to 95 percent of it being exported to EU countries, China and the USA. The company obtained the FSSC 22000 certificate confirming compliance of its production processes with international quality standards, the safety of the produced food products, and traceability all the way to feedstock suppliers.
Two TOMRA Food optical sorters were integrated into the production line for cleaning berries: Helius and Blizzard. But how did the company decide which optical sorters to purchase?
Quality Sorting Is The Key To Profitability
According to Vladimir Romanchuk, General Director of FRESHBERRY, it is not always about the latest technology and the most expensive machines.
“We initially planned to purchase the most advanced and efficient line as the key to future success,” said Vladimir Romanchuk, General Director of FRESHBERRY.
“Besides, the quality of the local feedstock should be taken into account, as for many reasons the volume of foreign matters actually amounts to three percent on average of the entire volume of incoming feedstock. Meanwhile, we aim to produce first-grade berries, which require less than one percent of foreign matters in the final product volume. Thus, the role of efficient sorting can hardly be overestimated,” Romanchuk adds.
The FRESHBERRY production line includes the following stages. The feedstock, frozen berries, passes the feed hopper and enters the vibrating screen through the crusher, where the bulk of leaves is removed. This is followed by the feedstock being sent by the screw conveyor to the air separator, which removes sticks and branches, and enters the freezer to freeze the berries. At the next stage, the product comes for stemming, followed by going to another air separator and the polisher, which removes the leaves adhered by freezing. The optical sorters are placed downstream with the polisher. Finally, the last stage includes filling and packing.
” The main task of the TOMRA sorters is to ensure the stable high quality of the berries. The optimal performance for our enterprise is no less than two to 2.5 tons of berries per hour: the slower run of the feedstock along the line causes a steep escalation of the production costs. Considering the relatively large volume of foreign matters in the feedstock, our TOMRA sorting machines face a
really challenging task. Profitability of the entire enterprise strongly depends on their proper work,” said Romanchuk.
Due to individual laser signal transmitters, Helius free-fall optical sorters are able to identify any deviations in colour and structure in the stream of the quality product. Their powerful pneumatic guns separate the defective product – immature berries and the residual foreign matters after the previous feedstock processing stages – from the quality product with high accuracy. The Blizzard free-fall sorting unit scans the feedstock stream with pulse LED cameras operating together with multispectral sensors and successfully identifies deviations in colour, shape and structure.
Pneumatic ejectors expel the foreign matters in milliseconds and pass the quality product for further processing. Within the FRESHBERRY production line, the Blizzard sorter performs final sorting removing residual immature berries, berries of other breed and berries with the stem.
Our Priority Is The Maximum Production Flexibility
FRESHBERRY expects the delivery of another optical sorting unit soon. These three optical sorters will be subsequently integrated in the enterprise production line, making it the first of its kind on the Russian market.
“Investments in the most advanced automated sorting are in fact a single option for us,” said Romanchuk. “All too often, we have to work with berries having the volume of foreign matters up to five to seven percent of the entire feedstock volume. Two sorters can ensure output of first-grade products only upon the secondary sorting. However, in order to achieve this, berries have to be finally frozen in the freezer, which results in dramatic growth of the energy costs and, therefore, significant escalation of the production costs. Our calculations show that the necessary quality level for us and our customers will require the integration of another TOMRA Blizzard machine into the line.”
Readiness to invest in technologies proves that agricultural companies like FRESHBERRY have much to gain by incorporating optical sorting systems into their production lines. Investing in optical sorting technologies also shows that such companies and management have a long-term development strategy, as well as the desire to build the most flexible production rapidly responding to all market challenges.
Perhaps the main advantage of TOMRA Food sorting solutions is that they allow not only for increase of the final product quality, but also for stable maintenance of the target quality level. This is important as this enables us to build the long-term relations with our customers, as well as to develop our business systematically and thoughtfully,” Romanchuk says.
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