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UK's largest blueberry grower opts for berry sorting with AI technology

Hall Hunter has recently acquired a new Elifab Berry Class 12 lane sorting machine along with two automatic punnet fillers of Elifab´s partner Mat Exakta. The new blueberry sorting and packing line will be installed soon and fully operational by the end of May 2024.

Largest blueberry grower in the UK
Hall Hunter is the largest blueberry grower in the UK, supplying approximately 2,200 tons of blueberries to the market annually. A significant portion of the blueberries sold in the UK during the season originates from Hall Hunter, reflecting their pivotal role in the local market. They supply major UK retailers.

From left to right: Tihomir Zhelev (Packhouse manager Hall Hunter), (Alana Deacon – Head of Operations Hall Hunter), and Ed Westerweele (Sales Manager Elifab Solutions)

Main Goals and Challenges
Hall Hunter faced several challenges related to packing and grading, with labor being a primary concern. "Labour is number one. We need to minimize it and double our capacity," says Alana Deacon, Head of Operations. The company also had to deal with a 10% labor cost increase, emphasizing the urgency to streamline processes. "We wanted something new, forward-thinking, and user-friendly," says Alana. Ensuring high throughput without compromising quality was a priority.

Hall Hunter aims to setting industry standards. "Our goal is to grow more blueberries and be industry leaders," says Alana. By leveraging advanced technology, they seek to enhance productivity while staying ahead of market demands. "We're adapting our fields to stay ahead of the curve," Alana explains. "We need technology and machinery that can keep up and enhance our operations."

Motivations for Choosing Elifab-Ellips and Matexakta:
The decision to adopt Elifab-Ellips grading machinery and Mat Exakta punnet fillers was driven by several key factors. Foremost among these was the recognition of the growing importance of AI and forward-thinking technology. "The AI computer tech world is coming, and either we embrace it and use it, or we get left behind," emphasizes Alana. Saving labor, maintaining fruit quality, and achieving higher capacity were essential considerations for Hall Hunter. The punnet filler's multiformat automatic de-nesting feature, combined with the precise grading capabilities, perfectly aligned with their requirements. Additionally, the competitive pricing and support from sales manager Ed Westerweele played a role in their decision-making process.

Reflecting on the challenges they faced, Alana Deacon highlighted the importance of a grading system designed specifically for blueberries. "We like the way it's specially designed for blueberries, in particular the low number of drops and the lowest transfer heights. This has a positive impact on the softness, bloom, etc," she explains. "We also liked the flexibility of the Elifab-Ellips grading machine and how you can tweak things very precisely. It's very user-friendly," explains Alana.

Hall Hunter's expectations are centered around maximizing efficiency, reducing labor costs, and improving output quality. They anticipate a significant reduction in labor requirements, with the potential to double output while maintaining precise grading and minimizing giveaways on the punnets. "We did the calculations. Across the entire process, the whole packing line, we're going from 26 people per shift to 12 people," says Alana. "So it's a massive saving on labor. For sure. And doing double the amount of throughput as well. We can be more flexible and more precise with our grading now so we can grade as per specification and maximize our yield." Alana adds.

Hall Hunter's journey exemplifies the transformative impact of embracing cutting-edge technology in agriculture. By investing in Elifab-Ellips technology and Mat Exakta punnet filler, they are poised to revolutionize their operations, streamline processes, and achieve their growth objectives. With a strong focus on innovation and quality, Hall Hunter is well-positioned to lead the UK blueberry industry into the future. "We're very proud of this partnership with Hall Hunter, and we are looking forward to working closely with them to reduce costs and improve quality for consumers, says– Ed Westerweele of Elifab.

For more information:
Ed Westerweele
Elifab Solutions
Tel.: +34622943980