Exeter Engineering Machine Uses AI To Sort Bell-Peppers, Potatoes And More

Published online: Sep 15, 2022 Articles
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Exeter, California - Exeter Engineering, a leading American manufacturer of electronic sorting, washing, receiving and related machinery for the fresh produce industry, has installed an upgraded version of its proprietary ID Technology system that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically grade and sort bell peppers, an industry first.

The system uses an integrated suite of cameras, lighting, and software to size and grade bell peppers for color, size, weight, and even shape defects, all using AI to implement operator-set grading choices. It transmits live images of every bell pepper passing through the sorter, across all lanes, to operators, allowing them to adjust on the fly, or see the effects of adjustments they are considering. 

“It’s a game changer,” said Matt Lonczynski, a sales engineer at Exeter Engineering. “AI-powered grading gives packers some amazing gains in terms of speed and accuracy, especially compared to older systems. We are already seeing impressive accuracy rates of 90 percent.”

The bell pepper capability is one part of the upgrades made to ID Technology in its second major release: version 2.0. Hardware improvements in version 2.0 included a new camera hood and upgraded lighting. “The new lighting was crucial for getting imagery of sufficient quality to successfully size and grade bell peppers,” said Boomer Batchman, President of Exeter Engineering. “With better imagery in both visible and infrared light spectrums, the AI gives more accurate results.”

The ID Technology system has been working on potatoes for over a year, with accuracy rates of 95 percent on some customer’s packing lines. The new version 2.0 hardware, combined with a software upgrade, now allows potato packers the option to use the AI to differentiate between three or more grades. They can also use the new “severity classification” feature, which allows operators to adjust for the severity of a variety of defects to move products from one category to another.

“With ‘Severity classification,’ ID Technology is coming out with another unique feature,” said Lonczynski. “It really allows the sort of granular control that used to come only after an operator had years of experience. Now it’s automatic, the changes are made faster, and even a novice can achieve great results. That’s the power of AI.”

Exeter Engineering is currently testing a new version of ID Technology’s software suite that will add the ability to sort sweet potatoes. “Progress is good so far,” said Batchman. “Sweet potatoes present several unique challenges. We hope to have that capability by Fall of 2022.”

ID Technology is exclusively available on graders and sorters from Exeter Engineering. “By upgrading to an AI-powered system, packing houses can save both time and money,” said Batchman. “For quality produce, you really need to have reliable, consistent grading. ID Technology provides that reliability and consistency quicker and more efficiently than older systems, which relied more on the skill and experience of the operator. Our potato clients are looking at returns on their investment in a year, a year-and-a-half. We think that will be a similar result for bell-peppers, cucumbers, and other produce types we have in the pipeline.”