TOMRA solutions for kiwifruit packhouses
With global demand for kiwifruit increasing, packhouses are left with the objectives of keeping up with demand by increasing capacity while meeting rigid product specifications. With modern sorting and grading technology, it is possible to achieve both objectives.
Demand for kiwis has grown following global economic growth, the rising popularity of health-conscious movements and more variety available globally. In the three years to 2020, land devoted to growing kiwifruit increased by about 7% and sales in that period increased by 9%. The world’s largest producer of kiwifruit is China, followed by New Zealand. Other major producers include Italy, Greece, Iran, Chile and Turkey.
The global kiwifruit market is worth more than $7 billion a year, expected to increase over the next five years at a compound annual growth rate of about 6%.
The weather can impact the price fetched by kiwifruit. When unfavourable conditions reduce crop yield, supply falls behind demand and prices rise. Packhouses cannot do anything about this, but neither can they ignore climate change.
An example of this is when growing seasons are deprived of sunshine hours. When this happens, the problem of dry matter in the fruit becomes more prevalent, and if the fruit has to be left on the vine longer before harvesting, the packing period becomes shorter, placing more pressure on the supply chain.
In addition to more frequent crop variability, packhouses must also deal with fruit that’s soft, physically damaged, spoiled by scale insects or difficult-to-see stem and calyx defects, or of a size or shape that doesn’t comply with the customer’s specifications.
To remove fruit with unwanted defects and blemishes, manual sorting and grading methods as well as automated sorters that accept and reject fruit based on shape are no longer effective enough.
TOMRA Food offers three specific grading solutions for kiwifruit: the Spectrim, Inspectra² (NIR) and UltraView inspection modules.
Spectrim has consistent lighting, powerful imaging, two infrared wavelengths and machine learning. It sorts and grades minor and major defects, including surface blemishes, insect damage, misshapen fruit and abrasions, and it can also identify hard-to-find defects such as sooty mould.
Spectrim also unlocks quality throughput constraints and ensures the right fruit goes into the right box, because sorting parameters can be configured to differing defect levels.
Protofanousi Fruits in Greece is one of the packhouses that uses Spectrim. The business packs 18,000 tonnes of kiwifruit annually for export to supermarket chains in Europe, South-East Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Canada and the USA.
According to Protofanousi Commercial Director George Kallitsis, the Spectrim platform has allowed the company to reduce the labour needed for manual inspection by 20% and increase overall throughput by 150%.
The UltraView inspection module integrates with the Spectrim cabinet to identify defects on the fruit’s stem and calyx such as sooty mould. The module contains a dedicated set of high-resolution multi-spectral cameras and LED lights located close to the fruit and parallel to its direction of travel.
The module is located on the sizer, directly after the Spectrim cabinet, meaning the fruit on the carrier is well-oriented for presentation to the UltraView sensors.
TOMRA has further developed solutions to futureproof packhouses, such as the recently launched version 5.0 of the Spectrim software, which makes it easier to use. The simplified, intuitive user interface has made it easier for first-time operators to pick up, operate and tune active running, while live downgrade breakdowns and predictions allow experienced operators to react more quickly. Improvements have also been made in blemish sizing and counting, empowering operators to pack closer to tolerance.
The cloud-based data platform TOMRA Insight has also been created, with the potential to help kiwifruit growers and packhouses manage inventories more effectively.
Phone: 02 9457 8640
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