The Growing Trend Of Seeds: How Can Companies Benefit From Effective Processing?

Friday, March 4th, 2022

Contributed by Tomás Tim-Tim

As global demand for seeds and grain such as coffee and rice continue to increase, companies are given a great opportunity to swell their revenue streams. However, in order to profit from these expanding markets, overcoming a few processing challenges is necessary. 

Big Opportunities

The booming popularity of seeds and grain is largely attributed to the income growth in highly-populated developing nations. Every year, millions of more people find they have more money to spend on fast-moving consumer goods, including food. A seismic shift in global consumerism is already being observed due to the economic growth of China and the APAC region as a whole. A recent study of 130 nations by economic analysts FocusEconomics also concluded that the world’s fastest-growing economy in the next five years will be that of the second-most populous, India.

The rising trend for healthy food, particularly in developed nations is notable as well. Shoppers are increasingly looking for ‘clean-label’ products containing natural and nutritious ingredients, causing seeds and grain to be added to more foods than ever before. The best-selling examples of this are bread, bakery goods, and snack bars. 

This is more than just a consumer fad or a blip on sales graphs. Market researchers forecast that during the next five years the seed market will expand in annual value at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of six to eight percent, rising from US$63 billion in 2020 to $US85-90 billion in 2025. In the same period, the grain market is expected to expand at a CAGR of about six percent, from US$1,150 billion to US$1,556 billion. 

Grains also include coffee beans, the source of one of the most widely-consumed drinks on the planet. Coffee prices reached new record highs in fall 2021, according to the World Coffee Organization (WCO). Though crop prices fluctuate because of weather conditions and variable yields, global demand is heading relentlessly upwards. Over the next five years, the annual value of the coffee bean market is expected to increase from US$27 billion at a CAGR of 6.7 percent. Much of this growth is being driven by rising demand for coffee capsules for home consumption and the opening of new franchise outlets in many nations worldwide – including China and India.

Processing Challenges

The key challenge processors are facing is that new sales opportunities are most likely in export markets where product imperfections are not tolerated. This makes it more important than ever for processing lines to detect and eject foreign materials, defective products, cross-contaminated products, and products contaminated with mycotoxins. 

It also takes years to plant more crops or enhance crop yields resulting in supply lags. As a result, processors must be more effective than ever at reducing food waste. It is no longer acceptable to use outdated sorting methods that discard large amounts of good product when rejecting bad products. 

The emergence of genetically modified (GM) crops is set to be another potential problem in the coming years. Though the sale of such foods will become more commonplace, they are unlikely to be welcomed by all consumers and may even be restricted or banned by some food regulators. This makes it essential for processors to prevent non-GM foods from becoming cross-contaminated with GM foods. It is also important to prevent cross-contamination, resulting in products containing unintended ingredients, such as allergens like soy.

Reasons For Optimism

The good news is that all of these challenges – even the well-hidden threat posed by aflatoxin – can be met by using modern optical sorting machines. For example, TOMRA Food offers a wide range of sorting solutions with various levels of sophistication to perform tasks of varying complexity. These machines are precisely calibrated for specific food applications and highly effective for many types of seed and grain. These machines are currently in operation around the world, sorting seed and feed corn, dry beans, lentils, chickpeas, dry peas, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and roasted and unroasted coffee beans. 

In order to enhance food safety as well as product quality, it is necessary that processing machines can grade to specification, increase removal efficiency, minimize false rejects, reduce or eliminate the need for manual intervention, and reduce or eliminate dependence on manual labour. The last point is especially important in developing nations where processors have traditionally relied on people rather than machines for sorting: whereas manual sorting is subjective, imperfect, and especially vulnerable to error when workers are tired or bored, automated sorters can work for hour after hour with superior accuracy, consistent standards, and unflagging efficiency. 

TOMRA’s machines are designed to be easy to keep clean, improve food hygiene, and be easily maintained, reducing line downtime. Their platforms are also robust, and their optical sensors are optimally located, sorting performance remains stable even when working conditions are dusty or subject to temperature extremes. Users find there is little or no degradation in sorting performance from the beginning of a shift to the end.


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