If the pandemic has highlighted one thing for growers across North America, it is their relationship with labor. Given the challenges growers have seen this year in accessing labor for field/grove/orchard work or in packing houses, maintaining the health of workers and much more, it’s no surprise that the interest in technology may have increased.
“The concern from growers we hear is around minimizing labor. Wherever they can do without manual labor is where they want to automate,” says Sam Sleiman of LABELPAC in Windsor, ON. “They’re scrambling for better technology that’s affordable and that works.”
In turn, LABELPAC has worked to speed up the timeline of its PLU labelling technology in hopes of meeting those needs. This December, the company will introduce new technologies to label fresh produce that the company designs and manufactures in-house. The new products include Smart in-Tray MOTOHEAD® Vision label applicators (a high-speed labeling system that can identify various tray patterns and sizes of produce and communicate with various PTI compliance lines); the MOTOHEAD® FX series (a fixed in-tray label applicator that takes up a small footprint in challenging spaces and can also be integrated into packing lines); and the MOTOHEAD® XL Large label applicator (designed to apply labels up to 3” x 2” at high speeds—it’s mainly used for large watermelon and other fruit and can be used on a wide range of conveyor and grading lines). “Typically, a lot of watermelon growers are applying these labels by hand. But with this, they can do it automatically at high speeds on various conveyors, packing lines or grading lines,” adds Sleiman.
Along with wanting to minimize the use of labor, Sleiman says there are other needs he hears about from growers such as robotic solutions used in packing lines. “Capabilities with our team of LABEPAC engineers is unlimited. We can automate nearly any request our customers may have. With our new MOTOHEAD Vision systems and PLU labeling solutions, we can provide this in-house and locally,” says Sleiman. He adds that the company is looking for farms who will work with the company on solutions which can benefit them substantially with little to no capital investment.