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Cherry packhouses experience efficiency and profitability benefits of new deep learning technology

Cherry packers in California, USA, and New Zealand implemented Tomra's AI-powered LUCAi™ technology with their InVision2 grading platform during the past two seasons with good results. They increased production and packing efficiencies while minimizing waste and maintaining the high quality of the product. The user-friendly interface made it easy for operators to adapt to the new technology.

Prima Frutta Packing is a family-owned business based in Linden, California. It packs high-quality cherries using the latest packaging technologies to ship across the USA and internationally to markets in Asia and other regions. Founded in 1991 by Tim Sambado to pack the produce from orchards on and around the family's ranch, which is marketed by Primavera Marketing, also run by the family.

Ten years ago it introduced Tomra Food sorters into its processing line to achieve the quality demanded by its customers. Sambado, President of Prima Frutta: "We pride ourselves on our consistent quality, day in day out, season to season. Our customers look for us to deliver a high-end quality product as well as excellent service. We can't do our business without technology and information. We are obsessed with data, and with getting the best technology in the world."

In 2023, Tomra Food was in the final stages of development of its AI-powered LUCAi platform, ready to trial its innovation with customers in different conditions and regions – from California to New Zealand. When Prima Frutta was offered the opportunity, Sambado was eager to see how it could help him achieve the improvements he wanted. "We wanted to become more accurate, to simplify the system for our operators, and to be able to detect some defects that in our traditional mapping system was more difficult."

After the 2023 cherry season, Prima Frutta decided to install LUCAi on all of their machines, for a total of 132 lanes for their upcoming 2024 cherry season.

Two long-standing customers who have been running Tomra equipment for almost 10 years, both based in Central Otago, New Zealand, were also keen to implement the latest grading platform: Dunstan Hills, which grows cherries primarily for export around the world and Panmure Orchards, a family business founded in 1952, which serves the domestic market.

The three cherry growers share the challenge of meeting the growing demand, with consistent high-quality produce, in the short cherry season, which typically begins in mid-May and finishes at the end of June in California, while in New Zealand it runs from early to mid-December to late January. After one full season with Tomra LUCAi, they found that they benefited from higher productivity, enhanced quality selection with consequent higher margins for their customers, and reduced food waste. "With LUCAi we achieved better grading and increased throughput of around 10 percent," says Ian Nicholls, Operations Manager at Dunstan Hills.

Michelle Haynes
Tomra Food
Tel: +64 21 377 141
Email: [email protected]

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