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GP Graders Director Stuart Payne
"“This technology has caused an industry wide revolution"
The award winning company has pioneered grading technology for years, and recently launched a unique 360 degrees electronic grading machine known as the AirJet®. Designed specifically for small fresh produce, the new machine is capable of sorting fruit according to size, colour, shape and internal and external quality.
GP Graders Director Stuart Payne says this machine is a natural progression of the company’s work in the industry.
“GP Graders is universally considered an industry leader in small produce grading technology and have pioneered the cherry grading industry, where we were the first to release defect-grading technology to the industry.”
He explains that the AirJet® grader – which was showcased earlier this year at the Fruit Logistica in Berlin – comes in two models to suit different fresh produce grading needs.
“The first is able to sort produce between 15mm to 42mm such as cherries, cherry and grape tomatoes, radishes, sprouts and a variety of other fresh produce. The second model consists of our “micro-roller” which sorts produce between 8mm to 32 such as blueberries,” he says.
“The AirJet® grader can handle a 100% load capacity due it’s superior software and processing capacity runs at a speed of 30 rollers per second for the larger roller and 45 rollers per second for our micro-roller sorting blueberries.”
The grading machine also uses High Definition cameras and captures 35 synchronised images of each piece of fruit as it passes under them at different phases of the fruit’s rotation process.
“Importantly, all captured images from the black and white, colour and near infra red cameras are overlayed to determine the percentage spread and size of, say, the brown on a red cherry, the size of bruises on a fruit, whether the fruit is deformed in shape, if a cherry has a stem and if so how long is it, the percentage size of a crack or fresh split, or the location of the stem connection to determine the exact commercial size grade,” Mr Payne explains.
“We have also included a fourth camera located under the roller so we can capture images and analyse the bottom of the fruit to determine if there are any problems with the quality that [are not revealed] to the top cameras. This enables us to see a full 360 degree image of the fruit.”
He says the positioning of the cameras also provides a more accurate determination of size grading when compared to cameras positioned at side angles, and also gives the AirJet® an advantage of providing“synchronised top-down images without parrellax errors, using image overlay of all images captured (not having separate image capture along the conveyor that separates any analysis)”.
There are also pulsing LED light domes for intense illumination of fruit under the cameras and the removal of “light glare” that can corrupt imaging, as well as a stem tracking system to determine if produce rotates under the cameras.
Mr Payne says they have also “completely re-written the software platform the system is based upon over the past two years with the most cutting-edge, streamlined programming language available.”
“Our company’s focus is fixated on reducing our customer’s cost base and improving their profit,” he says.
“GP Graders entire scope of product offering is to be faster, smarter, more productive, lower maintenance and more reliable than any competitive product available in the marketplace.”
Other unique functionalities of this technology include: the ability to separate the quality of produce into any number of different grades (being export first, domestic first, second, third, fourth, etc.); a 100% load capacity processing power; absolute flexibility in grading programming; the ability to determine stem length and stem colour, and the ability to see fresh splits on produce, as well as an easy to use interface that Mr Payne says“operators rate higher than any competitive interface”.
He says the AirJet® grader system highlights the advancements GP Graders have made for the fresh produce grading process, with improvements the whole industry is racing to adopt.
“This technology has caused an industry wide revolution from a largely mechanical platform of grading small fresh produce to an electronic platform. The entire worldwide industry is transferring across to this technology and it is happening at a rapid rate.”
He also says that GP Graders “is largely responsible for the introduction of this technology to the industry, being the inventors of defect technology in the cherry, cherry and grape tomato industries and are now leading the charge in the blueberry industry” – and that these advancements benefit the whole industry in a range of ways.
“The cost savings this technology delivers [are] in the reduction of sorting and packing staff, the ability to separate quality grades to cater to different market demands, the elimination of waste, and the elimination of rejections and pricing adjustments when produce is delivered to the buyer,” he says.
“The revenue increases are delivered through the accuracy in grade sizes – GP Graders provides 100% accuracy whereas the next closest competitor is only able to achieve 88% accuracy). Revenue is also enhanced through the ability to separate quality specifications according to buyer demands, be they export or domestic.”
Demand for the technology and innovations brought to the industry by GP Graders is now so strong that the company has locations in the USA, Canada and Chile, as well as Australia.
“The industry perceives us as the best in the market at what we offer and there has been an unprecedented demand for our solutions,” Mr Payne says.
“Our machinery and technology yields our customers the best money for their produce at the lowest cost base.”
As well as industry recognition, GP Graders have won a number of prestigious industry and state and federal government awards over the past several years, culminating in being announced the winner of the 52nd Prime Ministers Australian Exporter of the Year in late 2014.
With a team of 30 software technicians who are considered the best in their field of vision technology, Mr Payne says GP Graders will continue to research, develop and innovate the technologies used in this industry.
“We believe there are always advancements to be achieved in our product range and we spend millions of dollars each year on the generation of product ideas into functional, market driven solutions,” he says.
“And we do this with great success, with 90% of our product ideas leading to on-going market adoption. Innovation is in GP Graders’ DNA, our competitive position in the industry is one of leadership through innovation.”
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