Packsys from Aartselaar, Belgium, makes machines that pack and label all kinds of products. They also partly do this for the fresh produce sector. For example, the company designed a machine that automatically fits nets over crates filled with tomatoes.
Jean-Pascal Ophoff from Packsys.
“The crates with tomatoes go through our machine, after which a plastic net is fitted over the crate,” says Jean-Pascal Ophoff from Packsys. “The plastic sheet is welded around the crate, which is then transported through a shrink-tunnel with hot air, so that the plastic becomes tightly fitted to the crate. The very short lead time in the tunnel ensures the product doesn’t heat up. Nowadays, this machine is only used for tomato crates, but it’s possible to also apply this packaging method to crates of oranges,” he indicates.
Tomato remains in crate
The goal of the plastic netting is simple: the tomatoes have to remain in the crates. The netting should prevent two ways of tomatoes being removed. “Thanks to the netting, the tomatoes can’t fall out of the crate,” Jean-Pascal says. “The second important reason why the crates should be covered with netting, is due to the consumers. People sometimes tend to take tomatoes from a crate to place them in their own, so that they get more tomatoes for the same price. When a kilo price has been determined and you get more than you pay for, it’s advantageous for that consumer, although it’s not entirely fair. The other crate could be nearly empty. The nets are perfect to prevent that from happening.”
Thanks to the plastic netting, tomatoes can’t fall or be taken from the crates.
Although Jean-Pascal compares the plastic layer on the crates to a lid, the company’s packaging has a number of advantages compared to sealed lids. “Our plastic nets breathe,” he says. “The packaging can be compared to the nets in which onions are packed. The netting’s mesh is about four to five millimetres. The reason we use plastic is because it’s weldable and shrinkable. The net almost becomes a second skin for the products. Besides, the packaging can be easily torn from the crates.”
To pack the crates with plastic nets, Packsys had to implement a few adjustments. “Our machines provide 15 crates with nets per minute,” Jean-Pascal says. “We had to adjust the drive system and the suspension of the welding system, among other things, so that this became possible. The crate goes through the machine, and takes the netting with is, as it were. Because these rolls of film are quite heavy, we had to adjust our existing machine a bit. That way, we can make a contribution to the tomato world. We started in the fresh sector three years ago, although we’re planning to grow in it. We currently only pack crates with tomatoes, and we label leeks.”