Australia: Packing shed to install blemish, colour and weight tomato recognition system

A Southern Downs horticulture packing shed is set to install Australia’s first blemish, colour and weight tomato recognition system and create up to 30 direct and indirect jobs with funding from the Palaszczuk Government.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said Ballandean-based Kool Country Packers would receive $250,000 as one of 15 businesses in Queensland to receive a Rural Economic Development (RED) Grant to expand and grow employment.

“The funding that Kool Country Packers has received will allow them to purchase and install innovative technology that will improve the overall production of their business and create new job opportunities,” Mr Furner said.

“The new tomato recognition system will potentially provide year-round employment for current workers and create 30 new direct and indirect positions after installation.”

Director David Andreatta said the purchase of the New Generation Inspectra2 Tomato MLS Grader will allow the business to keep up with consumer trends and increase their daily throughput.

“Food retailers are becoming very demanding over the quality of the produce they buy so it’s important we stay up to date with those demands,” Mr Andreatta said.

Kool Country Packers will be the first packing facility to use Compac’s produce recognition technology in Australia.

“This new technology will help us to deliver fruit more efficiently, leading to less wastage and better prices as the new system will be able to recognise the fruit at its optimum level of ‘ripeness’ by using colour, weight and blemish recognition,” Mr. Andreatta said.

Every piece of fruit that passes through the system is captured over 500 times through sensors and cameras that can be configured to target specific defects.

Kool Country Packers processes fruit from four local farms but their current sorting systems cannot keep up with supply during peak harvesting seasons.

“Our current grading system is nearing the end of its life and struggles to keep up with our throughput during the peak seasons. The new Compac system will allow us to process fruit faster and more effectively,” Mr. Andreatta said.

The Rural Economic Development Grants program offers emerging projects up to $250,000 in co-contributions to build industry and grow employment opportunities across the agricultural sector. The $10 million grants program provides for three funding rounds over a three-year period ending 2021.

A total of 15 businesses have received $3.3 million under the first-round of funding for the RED Grants program. Overall these 15 projects are expected to create over 600 jobs across the agricultural sector in regional Queensland.

Funding for Round 2 of the RED Grants will be announced later this year.

The recent State Budget locked in funding for the remaining rounds of the program, taking the total amount of grants available up to $10 million.

“This program represents the Palaszczuk Government investing in regional jobs now and for the future,” Mr Furner said.

“By supporting regional businesses today we are helping them expand and growing our economy for the future.”

The Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) administer the RED Grant scheme on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

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