Aussie Growers Start X-ray Technology Trials in Packing Facility
In Victoria, Australia, the first trails of X-ray technology in a potato packing facility are underway, reveals a recent report from AUSVEG.
A 32-year strong partnership between Red Gem (potato growers) and supermarket chain Coles has culminated in an investment that may change the face of the Australian potato industry.
In 2018, Red Gem received an AUD350,000 Coles Nurture Fund loan to implement X-ray vision technology into their potato packing facility, which is expected to deliver improvements in the quality of Crème Royale potatoes supplied to Coles. It will also be environmentally- friendly, with the equipment powered entirely by solar panels. The trial is the first of its kind in Australia and started in January 2019.
Robert Cerchiaro of Red Gem was searching for technology to improve potato growing standards and enhance potato quality for consumers. This search led him overseas to the U.S. and Europe. In America, Cerchiaro found this X-ray vision system, which is used by most food manufacturers for metal detection.
“It takes an image of the potato based on density, so it sizes fantastically, but it also sees through the potato, looking for holes, voids and density changes. As soon as I saw the X-ray vision system, I thought that this is what we need for our brushed potatoes – the help we’re looking for is this system. Bringing the ground-breaking technology into the packing shed has already made an impact on the business. A lot of the workload was on graders and workers who were inspecting the potatoes. They were taking out undersized and oversized potatoes because of mechanical error; they were doing a lot of that work and were still having to grade for quality,” Cerchiaro says.
This technology will also benefit consumers of Coles’ Crème Royale potatoes in the long-term, with customer satisfaction expected to increase.
“Customers aren’t going to get any surprises of rotten potatoes and internal defects when they cut it or prepare it. If we’re going to impact today’s Australian consumer and try to stop the decline of fresh potato consumption, we need to give them greater confidence that when they are buying our product, they’re going to get value for money and they’re not going to get these surprises of defective potatoes,” goes on Cerchiaro.
Cerchiaro reiterated that without the support of the Coles Nurture Fund, it may not have been possible for Red Gem to dream big and implement this X-ray technology into the business.
“The rising cost of doing business in Australia is an issue, and I don’t think we’re alone in terms of that – every year it is becoming costlier to produce. While we look for new varieties and we own our breeding program, that’s still challenging. We’re looking to get more for fewer inputs and that’s easier said than done,” Cerchiaro says.
The possibility of partnering with retailers to employ the latest quality control technology in storage/packing facilities, could see greater consumer confidence in fresh produce here in New Zealand too.