Tong Equipment Transforms Throughput for UK Grower

Published online: Dec 09, 2020 Articles, New Products, Potato Equipment, Potato Harvesting
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Two of the newest machines in Tong Engineering’s wide range of vegetable handling equipment are proving invaluable in transforming post-harvest operations for UK potato grower Whitewater Potatoes.

Tong’s mobile cleaning and loading machine, the FieldLoad PRO, and its high-capacity MonstaFill box filler were launched as part of a suite of new product developments from Tong throughout 2019 and 2020, focusing on streamlining the handling process with maximum efficiency and throughput in mind.

During the 2020 season, both machines came to the fore in making light work of cleaning and loading a crop at high capacities, reducing manual operations by almost 50 percent for Whitewater Potatoes in Hook, Hampshire. The established potato company grows 1,900 acres of potatoes both at its main farm in Hampshire and on land in Scotland. With a farm team that plants, manages, harvests and stores an impressive 33,000 tons of potatoes for the chip market, Whitewater Potatoes relies on a swift and efficient post-harvest process that allows them to keep up with market demands.

“With the need to process high volumes of potatoes straight from the field, we decided to review our existing operations in order to maximize throughput and minimize labor requirements,” says Gavin Janaway, managing director at Whitewater Potatoes. “After our initial discussion with Tong, we could see that the EasyClean separator was going to provide the cleaning capabilities we need, and the FieldLoadPRO was the machine for us. After some consideration of the different box filling options, it was clear that the throughput capabilities of the MonstaFill would really take our capacity potential to the next level.”

Featuring a high-capacity infeed hopper, the FieldLoadPRO at Whitewater Potatoes gently receives harvested crop directly from trailers from the field before crop is transferred to the EasyClean separator and high-speed PU coil unit, which ensures very effective cleaning of crop in all conditions. Crop is then inspected within the machine’s insulated inspection cabin before it is gently transported via the remote-controlled cart elevator to the MonstaFill box filler.

Manufactured to gently and evenly fill 1-ton boxes, the MonstaFill features a 2.5-cubic meter-capacity holding hopper at each end of the machine’s main crop conveyor. While the machine can fill boxes to level, the hopper tanks are also fitted with integrated loadcells, which allow them to fill to a predetermined weight ready for discharge into boxes. Once one hopper is full, the conveyor begins to fill the second hopper. The machine detects when an empty box is presented by the forklift and the hopper discharges crop into the box as it is lowered by the forklift. The process means that the forklift then takes the full box away and returns with an empty box to repeat the process. There is no waiting for the forklift, ensuring a truly continuous box-filling process.

“Before we added the new equipment from Tong, we were operating one grader and two box fillers, with a total of seven operators required,” says Janaway. “The new FieldLoadPRO and MonstaFill setup requires a maximum of just four operators and often only requires three. The new Tong system runs with around half as many operators as our existing setup, and is also capable of processing almost 25 percent more crop, with capacities of up to 90 tons per hour. The way in which the MonstaFill operates with fewer forklift movements and a simple ‘full box out, empty box in’ process, really does make a significant difference to how quickly we can process the crop with the new system.”

“The new system at Whitewater Potatoes is performing extremely well,” says Richard Knighton, sales manager at Tong Engineering. “The FieldLoad PRO is receiving high volumes of crop straight from the field and providing very effective cleaning and gentle transfer of crop to the MonstaFill. The discharge mechanism of the filler’s holding hoppers means a very even fill of each box, allowing fewer forklift operators to swiftly exchange full boxes for empty ones and achieve a very continuous box filling operation.”

“We’re are very pleased with our new post-harvest system from Tong,” says Janaway. “The FieldLoad PRO and the MonstaFill have made it very easy for us to process large volumes of crop daily. Tong’s family heritage and reputation for quality design and build made them a natural choice for us. Their latest equipment is very much designed to perform in the most demanding handling situations, and it has certainly made it quicker and easier for us to efficiently process much higher volumes of crop on a daily basis.”