Robotisizing sorting and packing of fruit and vegetables

"The production of fruit and vegetables is still increasing in the Netherlands. Here, the demand for cheaper labor continues to play an important role. Using robots can significantly reduce the cost involved in the sorting and packing process", says Jan Nijland, Director at the Dutch company, Greefa.

"We have, therefore, developed a robot called the SmartPackr. This robot packs fruit in a specific way. In this case, the fruit is packed with the red color of the fruit facing upward. The stalks are also all facing in the same direction. The first of these robots have been purchased this year by various clients. These clients are based both locally and abroad."

Greefa is based in the Dutch town of Tricht. It was initially a machine manufacturing company. They made machines for the sorting and packaging of top fruit, stone fruit, and vegetables. Jan says, "Innovation is a top priority for us. We have moved more and more from being a machine building company to one that mainly works on software development. This year, we introduced the first robots that can sort and pack apples."

Greefa has been around since the 1940s. They have since established branches overseas. "It began as a forge, run by two brothers. After the Second World War, they used to rebuild the bodies of Jeeps", explains Jan.

"In the 50s, they were approached by a grower. He wanted to know if they could come up with an idea to help him sort fruit. One night, one of the brothers dreamed up the solution. They started working on it the very next day. It was a simple little machine, called the Toll. It mechanically sorted apples, depending on their size and became a global success", the Director continues. 

In the 1980s, a request for sorting the fruit by color was added. Later, the grower also wanted the fruit to be sorted into different levels of quality. Labor costs had to be reduced, even back then. The process within the fruit cultivation chain has to be cheaper, quicker, and more efficient. It also had to run smoother. "And we are still working on that", says Jan. "We also always meet our clients' tailor-made demands."

"We deliver machines internationally, to countries such as New Zeeland, Canada, and South Africa", he adds. According to Jan, Greefa is a market leader in the area of fruit and vegetable sorting technology. "We also want it to stay that way."

The technology does not restrict one to only machines. In recent years, the focus has been mainly on registering all the potentially important data in the sorting and packaging process. The information may be relevant to growers, cooperatives, and finally the consumers.

Food safety and quality plays an crucial role in the international fruit and vegetable trade. "That is why it is important that we contribute to the total process of traceability. We can do this with our sorting and packaging solutions", concludes Jan.

Source: Fruitpact

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