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Montague partners up with Tomra Food

The new packing and distribution facility will increase Montague's packing capacity to reach more than 40 million kilograms of fresh fruit a year. The Australian fresh produce company partnered with Tomra Food for its technology's grading accuracy and capacity to deliver a project on this scale. 

Rowan Little, Chief Innovation Officer Montague, explains the key considerations made in choosing technology for the project: "First of all, grading technology: we wanted the most technologically sophisticated external and internal grading equipment. Health and hygiene were important factors: the system must ensure the care of fruit through the sorting process to reach the consumer in optimal quality and is safe for human consumption. Efficiency was key: we needed the project to deliver tangible reductions in hours of labor per kilogram of fruit processed. Integration was another requirement: we needed to easily obtain data on fruit quality, volume and traceability from multiple Montague systems. And, finally, value – the total overall cost of the project."

In September 2019, it broke ground on its packaging and export distribution center. The 18,000 sqm facility with a capacity in excess of 40 million kg is one of the largest in the world. It features a 6-lane MLS sorting system, 5 pack lines with scope for expansion, a 50-lane pre-sorter, and an automated storage retrieval system with a capacity of 3,000 bins. All movements from pre-size to finished carton are ensured via robotics in a flow-through design that takes the fruit from the orchard, through the facility, and into storage.

The solution provided by Tomra Food builds on the class-leading performance of the Multi-Lane Sorter (MLS) and the Inspectra2, Spectrim and UltraView inspection systems to deliver gentle handling and grading accuracy that helps to reduce food waste and increase pack out. The three grading systems inspect the fruit as it enters the production process to ensure the highest quality of the end product. The Inspectra2 platform detects internal defects with high accuracy using Near-infrared (NIR) inspection to analyze the spectra of light transmitted through every fruit to determine internal characteristics. The powerful Spectrim optical sorting platform uses infrared to identify color or skin marks and bruises that are not visible to the eye.

Rowan Little has clear expectations of Tomra's grading technology: "Core benefits are the ability to grade stem end defects, identify and categorize a wider range of disorders, and the enhanced accuracy and grading fruit for internal defects. The accurate grading of fruit gives us the ability to closely align our product to our customers' requirements. From a production perspective, the project will give us greater visibility of fruit grade in the process, meaning less fruit in packed cartons in cold storage."

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