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Tomra -

Machinery guarantees safety and quality of organically farmed packaged salads at Italian cooperative

Tino Bellina has spearheaded the greenhouse lettuce industry for 35 years, earning the nickname "The Steve Jobs of the fourth range". He revolutionized the market in the late 1980s by introducing pre-washed baby leaves in bags, fundamentally altering the landscape of the fruit and vegetable industry.

This visionary insight prompted him to invest in a packaging machine for bagging lettuces grown initially in Bergamo and later in the Piana del Sele, near Naples, where baby leaves mature in half the time. This ensured year-round production, which he marketed under the Ortobell brand. The turning point came in 2001 when, at the peak of his success, he sold Ortobell to French multinational Bonduelle.

At this time, Tino Bellina identified a growing demand for packaged salads produced with high-quality organic farming practices and established OP La Maggiolina, which he runs with his children Marzia and Manuel, and son-in-law Davide. The cooperative, founded on principles of quality and safety, continues his legacy of excellence in the baby leaf sector. OP La Maggiolina operates in Lombardy, Veneto, and Campania with 14 associated producers and 320 hectares of greenhouses, 200 of which dedicated to organic farming, and three production facilities in Martinengo, Eboli, and Mira. The cooperative, which prides itself on the high quality of the products it delivers to consumers, has successfully integrated Tomra Food sorters into its operations. These machines use advanced sensor technology to identify and select lettuces, valerian, arugula, and spinach with minimal waste.

Cutting-edge technologies to meet industry challenges
The decision to embrace cutting-edge technology, such as Tomra Food sorters, reflects a broader commitment to tackling the many challenges of the fruit and vegetable sector. They include the escalating costs of energy, compliance with the Sustainable Development Goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda, and the ongoing struggle to secure skilled labour. With state-of-the-art technology such as Tomra 's, every leaf is meticulously analysed at great speed, resulting in a clean and safe product.

Tino Bellina stated: "Tomra machines have revolutionized our sorting processes, increasing efficiency and minimizing waste. Each leaf is meticulously evaluated, ensuring that only the finest produce reaches consumers' tables." Their sorters offer multiple benefits, including maximum food safety, superior product grading, optimized production line capacity, and user-friendly operation. This technology delivers greater consistency in product quality while allowing the redeployment of employees previously working in manual grading to more critical areas of the production line.

Gianluca Coloretti of Tomra Food Italia said: "In the search for innovative food sorting technologies to meet evolving consumer demands, Tomra solutions are proving remarkably efficient across diverse applications, especially in the fruit and vegetable sector. Optical technology automates the sorting process, increasing the quality and productivity of the production line. In addition, it maintains a consistent standard of inspection, increasing the safety of food products arriving on supermarket shelves."

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