Senegalese potato packer gets state-of-the-art weighers

"Potatoes might not be the first crop that comes to mind when thinking of Senegal. Yet, there are plenty of those being grown there," says Jouke van der Meer, sales manager at PIM (Packaging International Machinery). This Dutch company recently supplied weighing and packaging machines to Swami Agri in Senegal.

This family is originally from India. They cultivate 60,000 tons of potatoes on more than 1,000 hectares. That is around 80% of Senegal's potato production. "The potatoes are sold on the local markets. Not through supermarkets or brokers. So, Swami Agri has managed to establish a good business model."

"You can't compare weighing and packaging machine supplies in Senegal to those in Europe," says Victoria Arellano. She does PIM's marketing. "PIM draws up the packaging line's specifications with the customer. That's based on wants and needs. PIM similarly jointly 'personalized' Swami Agri's packaging line with them." 

One of the aspects that differ from Europe is the degree of automation. "There, the emphasis is on automating as much of the packaging process as possible. In Senegal, they chose to automate only a part and have the remaining tasks done manually. That's where we made the difference for them; we found the right mix between what we can offer and what they need," says Victoria.

Jouke adds that one of Swami Agri's objectives is to provide as many regional jobs as possible. They are doing so in consultation with the Senegalese authorities. Peak times are when the potatoes are being planted and harvested. During that time, about 1,600 people are employed. Jouke points out that education levels, too, cannot be compared to those in Europe. "That's why it was chosen to combine state-of-the-art weighers with robust, manually operated sewing lines. These are also easy to maintain in the event of breakdowns."

Jouke says this leads to a factor of nine times more labor than in the Netherlands, for example. "In Senegal, four operators are employed. In the Netherlands, you can get by with half of one." Also, labor costs much less in Senegal than in Europe. That is, of course, also considered. Swami Agri has a technical department. It, with PIM's support, services the machines. "The machines are equipped with modems too. So we can monitor them remotely, if necessary," explains Jouke. 

Once harvested, the company packs the potatoes mostly into 50kg bags and refrigerates them. "The packaging line's speed and capacity are crucial. Because it's so hot, the harvested potatoes have to get into the cold stores as quickly as possible." For delivery to the local markets, the potatoes are repacked from the cold store into 25kg bags.

Victoria reveals the automatic weighers' accuracy was why Swami Agri wanted PIM to automate this part of their operation. It can save a lot of money. "Our high-capacity, high-accuracy combination weighers have proprietary controls with self-learning software. So, it can weigh large, irregular, or even unwashed tubers to a 0.001% accuracy. Thus, 25kg really weighs 25kg," concludes Jouke. (MW)


PIM Machinery
T: +31 514 54 23 60

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