Keeping A Watchful Eye on Defects
Initially, sorters were utilized for product quality just focused on getting food defects out of good product. Innovation has led to brand protection from food safety events, preventing foreign materials from reaching end product users.
Some of the main benefits of state-of-the-art optical sorting equipment for potato processors include, according to TOMRA Food’s Global Category Director – Potatoes, Marco Colombo, maximizing yield while minimizing waste, enhanced consumer protection, integrated process control, and business enterprise information.
“Nonhomogeneous products and fluctuations in income defect levels have driven TOMRA to develop smart technology that dynamically adjusts to changing conditions. Further advancements in open sanitary design practices provide ease of sanitation for the production environment,” he explains, adding that some of the best-selling optical sorters from TOMRA Food include the TOMRA 5A and TOMRA 5B. “TOMRA’s evolution of whole product sorting technology offers the best flexibility to sort at high production rates for product size, quality requirements in addition to prevention against foreign materials making it into downstream process flow. The whole product sorters integrate with process control to modulate inputs, notify and alert of changing conditions. Our TOMRA 5A is a perfect example of this. TOMRA 5B, our state-of-the-art belt sorter, provides advanced features such as TOMRA ACT, our intuitive user interface, advanced data sharing, and connectivity options, such as our TOMRA Insight and our Sort to Length functionality. It is also able to self-check its performance, thanks to the recently developed self-check option,” he adds.
Upstream FM vs. Downstream FM
Most FM from the field, such as rocks and dirt, is removed by mechanical systems prior to the cutters, so downstream digital sorters can focus on FM that is inadvertently introduced during production, either from faulty equipment upstream or careless operators, says Karel Van Velthoven, with Key Technology.
“Unlike other suppliers in the market, Key offers both optical sorters and mechanical grading solutions, so our customers benefit from a seamlessly integrated customized solution from one source. For sorting whole potatoes, the Herbert Oculus sorters were recently added to the Key sorting product range. Inspecting tubers with 360° vision, Key’s Herbert Oculus sorters detect color defects, diseases and surface abnormalities. This includes skin discoloration, green and dark colors, bumps and notches, mechanical damage, common scab, cracks and black dot. Oculus is ideal for sorting pre-peeled whole potatoes, either unwashed or washed, in or immediately following storage to eliminate defects and FM and identify the dimensional profile of incoming raw whole potatoes to improve downstream processes,” Key’s representative explains, adding that “for potato strip sorting, Key’s VERYX® continues to lead the industry with the most advanced features. As the world’s only sorter that is able to inspect product entirely in-air with both top- and bottom-mounted cameras and laser sensors, VERYX achieves sustainable all-sided surface inspection to detect and remove more FM and defects.”
Companies contacted for this article agree that to reduce waste and improve sustainability, potato processors are increasingly using sorters equipped with powerful Sort-to-Grade (STG) software. Suitable for both wet and frozen potato strips, a STG-enabled sorter recognizes and categorizes every surface defect and the dimensional characteristics of every individual strip and makes each accept/reject decision based on how it will impact the aggregate ‘in the bag’ grade as defined by the processor. By controlling the output for defect types and strip lengths that must be managed to a particular grade or “spec,” STG accurately maintains the most complex final product specifications without operator intervention while increasing yields by one to three percent and enabling processors to eliminate mechanical length grading.
You can read the rest of this article in the September – October Issue of Potato Processing International magazine, which you can access by clicking here.