The Netherlands is a strong player in the global trade of top fruit, particularly in the production and export of Conference pears. To retain this position, while being able to offer continuity in quality, is of great importance. Developments have been rapid, particularly in the field of sorting in recent years.
Optical sorting is on the rise. The technique, which uses computers and a camera system to sort products by size, colour and quality, is applied increasingly often, for the sorting of top fruit as well.
Perfect - Van Wamel developed the Uni-Grader sorting machine to deal with the specific characteristics of Conference pears. “Because of this, it’s now possible to sort the product much more efficiently,” says Joost van Rheen of Van Wamel. “This results in fewer damages, and almost no sorting mistakes. We have now delivered a number of large installations in the Netherlands and Germany.”
Fruit Packing Zeeland from Kapelle has the ‘Perfect’ Uni-Grader cup sorter. The company has years of experience in the field of sorting, packing and cooling fruit, including top fruit and cherries. The sorting line sorts the fruit to size, colour and quality, and is then packed per the customers’ wishes. “Optical sorting is standard more and more often,” says René Slabbekoorn.
His company Artificial Intelligence Zeeland (ARINZE) is occupied with the setting up of the sorting software and the camera system of optical sorters to improve the sorting process. Not just for Fruit Packing Zeeland, but also for third parties all over the world. “An optical sorter is quite an investment, and to get the right result, it’s very important that the system is set up properly. Only then can the machine be optimally used.”
Providing insights into production
The Uni-Grader electronic optical sorter sets a new standard regarding damage-free and product-friendly sorting. The machine was developed especially for sensitive fruit such as Conference pears and Golden Delicious apples. René says the camera technique in particular was a deciding factor in the choice for the sorting machine from Van Wamel. “Being able to sort better is a goal in itself. Besides, the new technique offers the option to work as specifically as possible because the products can be classified extensively.
The classification works because the system is capable of digitising product characteristics. The computers then store all of this data, also called ‘Big Data.’ By optimising the system by means of the stored data, it’s easier to remove a specific colour or certain defect. Additionally, all of the gathered data will offer an enormous amount of insight to everyone. The percentages in sizes, colour, loss and more will become clear per grower, per variety and in future perhaps even per position in the orchard. Because of this, the sorter will be able to work even more accurately. This also offers opportunities for customer-specific trading, which is required increasingly often.”
With the development of the ‘Perfect’ Uni-Grader cup sorter, additional attention was paid to further minimising the transitions, so that the product retains the state it was harvested in. The extra wide singulation brushes and cups reduce the risk of damages of large products. The use of special synthetic components results in a strong reduction of sound emissions, resulting in a healthier and more pleasant working environment. Furthermore, the Uni-Grader has been equipped with ‘TrueSort’ sorting software. The specially developed cups can be replaced without the use of additional tools in just a few seconds. A lot of attention was also paid to the accessibility for maintenance and cleaning.