The fruit and vegetable industry is becoming increasingly automated. Mechanical sorting—and certainly manual sorting—is outdated, including in emerging countries. The Western and Asian markets are placing ever-higher demands on the external and internal quality of fruit and vegetables, increasing the role of optical sorting.
Supermarkets and consumers are placing ever-higher demands on fruit and vegetables. “They want a higher level of consistent quality and are becoming more and more unwilling to accept blemishes,” says Erwin Bakker, managing director of software company Ellips. “Mechanical or manual sorting too often leads to blemishes.”
Until recently, delicate products such as cherries were sorted by hand. “There is currently a tremendous demand for optic sorters in this industry, because there are enormous results to be obtained,” says Bakker. “In the United States, for example, we recently installed our software on a 40-lane sorter. According to our customer Rivermaid, up to 85 percent of the blemishes will be detected. Additionally, the size determination has an accuracy level of 97 percent. For Rivermaid, automation has led to a reduction in labor costs, higher productivity and consistent quality.”
Another development that is giving optic sorting a boost is the increased demand for fruit and vegetables in the Asian market. “Countries such as China are importing increasing amounts of fruit. It can sometimes take more than a month for the fruit to reach the Asian market,” says Bakker. “For that reason, it is very important to determine in advance what fruit will survive the journey. Using an optic sorter can make this selection simple.”
Bakker also believes that supermarkets and consumers eventually will not accept internal rot. “Consumers do not want their bag of onions to look fine on the outside but be rotten on the inside,” he says. This issue motivated Ellips to go further in the area of internal quality. “We developed a system with which the internal quality of a product can be determined precisely,” Bakker continues. “For this, we are one of the few providers that uses the ‘transmittance’ method, a result of which is that the entire fruit can be illuminated and not merely a part of the fruit. In this way, deviations such as rot, brix, dry matter, acidity and ripeness can be determined accurately. The system is able to accurately distinguish the ‘bad’ products from the ‘good’ products. In this way, very few ‘bad’ products are found among the ‘good’ products. But what is truly exceptional is the low number of ‘good’ products that mistakenly end up with the ‘bad’ products. You can feel that immediately in the pocketbook: more sellable products. I believe that internal quality will play a crucial role in the fruit and vegetable sector. Without a doubt, optical sorting is the future.”
Ellips delivers hardware and software to manufacturers of sorting machines. Thanks to this hardware and software, the quality of vegetables and fruit can be graded more effectively, more rapidly and more consistently than by the human eye alone. Selection—based on color, weight, size and internal and external quality—has never been so accurate
Visit the Ellips website to learn more.