Two-a-Day, a shareholder of Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing, has invested in a new packing facility to better manage the increasing volume of fruit from growers in the Elgin, Grabouw, Villiersdorp, Vyeboom and Greyton valleys. According to Two-a-Day Group Operations Director, Dawid Malan, the new sorting and packing facility imported from The Netherlands, at a multi-million rand investment, uses the latest technology and robotics to better sort fruit and correctly pack it for delivery-ready storage. And, with saving water resources at the forefront of all activities, the design reduces water use by more than 60% compared to other sorting facilities.
“We have year-to-date saved 62% more water across all our operations than we did previously,” Malan says.
Modern fruit sorting
“We again looked to Greefa, one of the global leaders in fruit sorting technology, to provide a new Geo-Sort 10-lane sorting system complete with the newest generation of camera-sorting equipment able to sort up to 60,500kg bins per hour,” he explains. “When fruit arrives in bins at the packhouse it gets gently tipped into a water-based system that is best for gentle fruit handling. The first part of the grading machine is the CDZ/95/D singulator which has been developed specifically for the sorting of round, delicate fruit, with a size range of 40 - 120mm in diameter and a maximum length of 120mm. The soft rubber diabolos, mounted at a pitch of 95mm, ensure fruit-friendly singulation.”
According to Malan, a big part of modern fruit sorting practice is the use of camera technology to not only grade fruit in line with cosmetic colour and blemish standards but to also analyse the internal quality of fruit to alert for defects such as internal browning or to measure sugar content in the form of Brix. “The rotation speed is set in such a way that the largest sized fruits make one full rotation under the vision field of the cameras. Our new Greefa set uses a double set of cameras so the length in which the fruit has to rotate is twice the usual length. Even at higher speeds of processing, this new fruit rotation system is much more gentle than machines with a single rotation section,” he says.
Not only do LED lights save energy and last longer but they also produce less heat and less dust which is much more fruit friendly than other systems. “High-resolution cameras and LED lighting can differentiate fruit size, short/long, colour and blush along with background colour almost in an instant. Greefa’s well-known iQS (Intelligent Quality Sorting) make use of the mounted colour and infrared cameras and captures the weight of each individual piece of fruit. Also, the weight is far more accurate using the transfer unit than it is using a traditional weighing system which uses the bridge underneath the cups system. In this way, the influence of dirt and water are kept to a minimum.”
Evaluation of the whole fruit reducing potential claims
Tru-Cape Managing Director Roelf Pienaar says: “this new sorting equipment will help reduce the potential claims we have to pay back from fruit that has, for example, been delivered with internal browning. Something that, in the recent past, could only be discerned by cutting into fruit.”
Malan adds that the Greefa sorting system which uses iFA and NIR (Near Infra Red) can detect water core damage unlike the more common systems that measure reflection, the new Greefa uses transmission technology. “This ensures that the whole fruit is evaluated, resulting in a very accurate measurement. The system is able to measure values for internal browning and water core. Then, after setting the different levels in the self-learning software, an extremely high level of accuracy can be achieved.
According to Malan, the Greefa iQS 4 system is the latest generation of quality grading and is, without a doubt, the most accurate and advanced system available worldwide. “Since the introduction of external quality systems in 1996, Greefa has always been the leader in this field of technology and has maintained its position by heavily investing in research and development. We like that the system is fully dynamic and any new defects can be trained and new algorithms be installed remotely when required. A large team of engineers is working continuously, dedicated to evolving the algorithms of this system.”
Intelligent fruit counting
Malan says that iPWC is the abbreviation for “Intelligent Package Weight and Counts” which enables the user to select the number of pieces of fruit (also known as the fruit count) to go into a package and the weight of that package. During sorting, the software will try to ensure that the average weight of all fruits in a certain group is as close to or slightly higher than the desired average weight. The new tech approximates human reasoning better than previous systems did.
During sorting, when the fruit has a weight that is in an overlapping range, the software will determine in which group the fruit will best fit. The end result is a more nuanced high-speed sorting system than ever before. Malan explains that the difference between dynamic and variable threshold is that dynamic will adjust itself according to the lot quality using a buffer of 1,000 apples to determine the percentage graded in each class.
“Although sorting technology has been available for some time, what’s new is that more of the entire process is now mechanised, increasing overall productivity. After fruit is sorted according to pre-programmed requirements and automatically packed ready for market, the new Yaskava robot will form the base of the Gossamer Robot Palletising station,” Malan says, adding that the Gossamer Robot station is capable of packing up to 1,000 cartons per hour which will improve their productivity.”
According to Pienaar, based on the number of trees already in the ground, Tru-Cape is expecting as much as a 20% growth in volume in the next few years and the new technology and investment that Two-a-Day has made will allow the company to successfully pack and store the increased volumes.
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