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Data solves problems in fruit and vegetable sorting

14 November 2022

Today, data has become a vital lifeline in the production of high-quality and sustainable fruit and vegetables. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) has brought with it an understanding of the many ways that data can be used to increase productivity, identify faults, and earn higher revenue. 

Data has become a vital lifeline in the production and processing of fruit and vegetables. Having access to data tracking in optical sorting machines for example can offer manifold benefits. To understand the value of data in optical sorters, it is important to understand the monetary value of a company’s time. For example, if a company is producing €10,000 of vegetable products an hour and there is a fault that is not discovered until two hours later, then the company has potentially lost €20,000 of revenue. This is just scratching the surface of the value of data in fruit, vegetable & potato sorting, but it gives an idea of the cost of not connecting and utilising data. 

Today it is necessary for the food processing sector to adapt to survive. Data can provide the information and statistics that show behaviours – both human behaviours, and machine behaviours. The more we understand behaviour, the more it is possible to optimise processes and create a leaner, healthier business.

Bühler highlights the three problems facing the fruit and vegetable potato sector, to demonstrate the value of data.

Problem 1: Blockages – Often fruit  and vegetable processing will involve frozen products. A common problem is when a product clump or ice chunk gets stuck and causes a blockage. This becomes a larger problem when the blockage obstructs the camera view which is detecting the product. In this scenario, perfectly good product can end up in the rejected stream, wasting resources and money.

The data integrated into Bühler’s optical sorting machines is able to instantly recognise blockages, reporting them on the dashboard and triggering an alarm. This means the issue can get sorted quickly with minimal contamination or loss of good material.  

Problem 2: Variations in product quality – Two differently farmed potatoes may not always be equal when it comes to processing costs and quality. Fruit and vegetable processors will often receive their raw materials from multiple suppliers. The problem? One supplier’s quality may be better than another despite both farmers being paid the same. This could go unnoticed without the ability to measure and analyse the wasted material.

Data, however, is able to highlight which supplier has a greater rejected percentage. Appearing in the dashboard, the data will visually show problem areas, allowing customers to identify and act to reduce costs and become leaner. This could mean negotiating with the supplier for a better deal, and if they ask for proof, they can always be shown the data.

Problem 3: Human error – Companies will often process more than one type of product. Bühler’s optical sorters are able to sort a huge range of different products. However, traditionally problems would occur when operators forgot to switch the mode accordingly to the product.

Data is now able to outperform human reliability. Bühler Insights provides a timeline of the mode selected, making it easy to track the issue and resolve it before too much good product is wasted.

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