Berry producer sorts out feedstock to ensure high quality

Thursday, 13 January, 2022 | Supplied by: TOMRA Sorting Solutions Pty Ltd

Founded in 2019, FRESHBERRY is a Russian startup producer of wild-growing berries. The enterprise is engaged in collecting, procurement, processing and selling wild-grown blueberries, cranberries, cowberries and cloudberries.

The company aims to produce first-grade berries for export to the EU market, as well as to China and the US. This means they must ensure there is less than 1% of foreign matter in the final product volume.

In March 2020, the company implemented an automated production line for cleaning blueberries, cranberries and cowberries. To ensure high quality of the final product, it purchased two TOMRA Food optical sorters that were integrated into the line: Helius and Blizzard.

The berry production line includes a number of stages. The feedstock passes the feed hopper and enters the vibrating screen through the crusher, where the bulk of leaves are removed. Then the feedstock is sent by the screw conveyor to the air separator, which removes sticks and branches, before entering the berry freezer. At the next stage, the product is stemmed and then moves to another air separator and the polisher, which removes the leaves adhered by freezing. Downstream of the polisher there are two TOMRA optical sorters: Helius and Blizzard respectively. The final stage includes filling and packing.

“The main task of the TOMRA sorters is to ensure the stable high quality of the berries,” said Vladimir Romanchuk, General Director of FRESHBERRY. “Optimal performance for our enterprise is no less than 2–2.5 tons of berries per hour: the slower run of the feedstock along the line causes 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. And they certainly meet the requirements.”

Due to individual laser signal transmitters, TOMRA Helius free-fall optical sorters are able to identify any deviations in colour and structure in the stream of the quality product. Its 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 identifies deviations in colour, shape and structure. Pneumatic ejectors expel the foreign matter in milliseconds and pass the quality product on for further processing. Within the FRESHBERRY production line, the Blizzard sorter performs final sorting, removing residual immature berries, berry stems and other types of berry.

FRESHBERRY has now ordered another Blizzard sorting unit. Thus, three optical sorters will be subsequently integrated into the enterprise production line.

“All too often, we have to work with berries having the volume of foreign matter up to 5–7% of the entire feedstock volume. Two sorters can ensure the 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 the 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.”

In conclusion, Romanchuk said: “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 long-term relations with our customers, as well as to develop our business systematically and thoughtfully.”

Online: www.tomra.com
Phone: 02 8624 0100
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