GP Graders develops and distributes grading equipment for fresh produce, and as the Australian-based company’s director Stuart Payne explains, there’s plenty more to come.
Are cherry installations still your core business?
Stuart Payne: "We’re still doing a lot [of cherry graders] but we’ve continued to branch out into other products as well.
We’re getting some traction in loose grapes, cherry and grape tomatoes, and we see blueberries as a great opportunity going forward. That small, fresh produce category is where we see our niche with our trademarked AirJet grading platform, which provides an alternative to traditional cup graders.
We want to introduce our trademarked AirJet Vision technology to some of these new categories that otherwise haven’t seen this sort of technology."
Can you outline the advantages of your trademarked AirJet platform?
Stuart Payne: "It really depends on the produce. For something like blueberries, we’re the only ones who can see shrivelled and dehydrated fruit, and separate relative degrees of softness to firmness."
"The design of the machinery has been made according to very strict hygienic standards. Our view is that fresh produce grading machinery really should be compliant with the same hygiene standards as food processing machinery. Everything can be washed down, it’s easy to clean and easy to access; we’re really catering to what we think will be a future need in hygienic machinery."
GP Graders’ AirJet grader is powered by your trademarked AirJet Vision software. This marks your entry into the development of software. Why have you gone down this route?
Stuart Payne: "We’ve developed the AirJet Vision software over the past three years. It’s been developed for both blueberries and cherries and we’re running it on loose grapes and cherry tomatoes."
"We launched it mid-last year (2018) and to this point it’s fault free. In fact, it’s performing well beyond our expectations. It does everything we want it to do, and it gives control over the whole development pipeline. We’ve got plenty more innovations we want to launch in this space, so it’s just a matter of ticking those off as we free up development time."
Can you elaborate on what some of these innovations might be?
Stuart Payne: "There’s certainly a lot of innovation in camera technology. There’s a lot of innovation in how software programs are written, and I think that’s going to really disrupt this industry. There are some movements in artificial intelligence that are going to very interesting and we’re already in development of this."
"The most exciting thing for us is where we’re going with the AirJet Vision software. Our customers’ feedback has been excellent, and we’re working to really broaden that range into different commodities. We’re working with different partners to achieve these ends."
"Having our own software means we can drive this development. We’re not constrained anymore, and we’ve got a really positive future in this space."
One of the partners you’re working with is US-headquartered A&B Packaging, a company GP Graders signed a collaborative agreement with earlier this year. What will this agreement cover and what value will it deliver?
Stuart Payne: "A&B Packaging works with technology for the packing and handling of blueberries. They also do a lot in cherry tomatoes. They’re a great family-run company based in Michigan. We complement A&B’s range of equipment in the sense that we can provide them with an electronic grader. They’ll provide all of the infeed and automated packing and we can marry that up with our trademarked AirJet system to provide and end-to-end turnkey solution."
"It’s a partnership; they’re going to sell our machines for blueberries globally. They’ve got the skillset in that space and they’ve got the global customer base to tap into."
Stuart Payne says initial feedback on the trademarked AirJet platform has been overwhelmingly positive.
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