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Fruit & vegetable packing
Onion packing & processing storage and sales quality
Onion packing & processing, boxing, bagging, food service, and inventory QC traceability by farmsoft reduces waste and increases productivity in the onion packing & processing industry
Farmsoft delivers reduced waste in the onion packing traceability & quality control, processing, storage, distribution phases. By enforcing best practices, FIFO, inventory expiry monitoring, and easy stock takes to minimize waste and maximize packing profit. Use bar-code managed inventory, labeling, 3D pallet storage, to help reduce waste. Use farmsoft to process, grade, sort, pack, and value add for any onion type including red onion, white onion, pickle onions, processing onions, brown onion and more.
Conduct recalls in seconds, with full confidence of accuracy and reliability. Minimize risk by ensuring accurate traceability is automatically captured. Pass audits with ease & reduce compliance costs using farmsoft's traceability guidelines. Trace fresh produce up and down the supply chain, over multiple traceability hops. Instantly produce farm records and any other farm traceability records if you optionally use our farm solution.
REDUCE ADMINISTRATION COSTS FOR ONION PACKING
Minimize your administration costs with automatic paperwork generation. Ensure accuracy of paperwork by having necessary documentation (invoice formats, export documents, transport documents etc) automatically generated based on the needs of the specific customer - ensuring timely and accurate documentation. No more rejected orders because of bad documentation accompanying a shipment. Food traceability software made easy!
CONSISTENT QUALITY CONTROL FOR ONION PACKING
Guarantee consistent, accurate, and efficient quality control is performed at any part of the fresh produce handling life-cycle; including during delivery, pre processing, post processing, and dispatch. Create quality control tests based on each customers requirements, and even create a daily factory hygiene test, employee performance tests and more. Accurate quality control helps to improve customer confidence and quality perception. Easily follow fresh produce quality control & fresh produce inventory guidelines.
BETTER PRODUCTION PLANNING & DISPATCH FOR ONION PACKING
Monitor orders, assign orders to specific pack-houses (you can have unlimited processing sites in farmsoft), and allow micro monitoring of each production lines output requirements using dashboards. The dashboards ensure the correct products are produced at the correct time to fill orders. Dispatch teams are given details on their mobile device (or PC/Mac) and scan pallets onto orders. Administration teams can see orders are picked and ready for dispatch, and are presented with the correct documents for printing. All of these features result in improved accuracy of both production and dispatch processes.
OPTIONAL FARM SOFTWARE INTEGRATION FOR FARM TO PLATE MANAGEMENT SOLUTIONS
Optionally use farmsoft Farm Management software with our Post Harvest solution. Using both solutions provides an end to end solution from field to plate. Farm Management by farmsoft delivers full farm record keeping, farm inventory, cost monitoring, budgeting, best practice enforcement, and adherence to international farming standards. Use Farm Management by farmsoft to manage your own farms, or even hundreds of external farms that supply your fresh produce company.
Onion packing & processing, food service business management software for improved food safety & reduced waste. Onion packing & processing storage and sales quality by farmsoft reduces waste and increases productivity in the onion packing space.
Oregon, Washington and Idaho onion producers on Ellips/Elisam:
“Delivering value to the onion industry through increased production, cost reductions and improved product quality”
While everyone is going through unprecedented times and situations, Elisam (powered by Ellips onion grading and sorting technology) continues to expand its customer base by delivering proven value to the North American onion industry.
Walla Walla River Packing, Madison-Cox and Obendorf Farms all installed Elisam onion graders for the 2019/2020 season with the ultimate goal of being able to better serve their customers. With their packing seasons now complete, they are able to look back and assess how their investments helped improve their operational performance. As might be expected, each situation is slightly different, despite this, however, they all achieved significant benefits such as increased production, cost reductions and improved quality. This helped these companies pack their onions to their fullest potential. Ellips grading and sorting technology is now being utilized by 13 onion packers in the Pacific Northwest and over 25 across North America.
Oregon onion operation achieves competitive productivity and quality
In 2019, Coastline Farms and Madison Ranches formed a partnership to start a new onion packing operation in Echo, Oregon, under the name Madison-Cox Onions. As the core component of their operation, they purchased a new two lane Elisam onion grader for their 2019/2020 season.
Jonathan Miller, formerly Plant Manager at River Point Farms, is the General Manager for MCO. Miller shares that the decision to purchase the Ellips/Elisam was made much easier because of their previous experiences with the machine and the technology. “We were confident in their performance and commitments and know that the company and their employees stand behind their solutions and customers,” he says.
Even though the company was already familiar with the machine and the technology, Ellips/Elisam’s performance, reliability and support exceeded their expectations. “We achieved significant labor savings via Ellips’ TrueSort grading technology, including External Quality (EQ) and Internal Quality (IQ) capabilities. The production reached an excess of 15 tons per hour on our two-lane Elisam grader and all of this enabled us to run our entire packing operation with less than 20 employees,” Miller says.
Starting out as a brand-new operation in 2019, it was particularly important for MCO to be able to supply accurately sized and sorted product – which the Ellips/Elisam helped them do. “Even though we were a new and smaller scale organization, we were able to provide comfort to both our existing and new customers that we could provide a consistent product that was sorted according to the same EQ and IQ standards achieved by larger operations.”
The reliable technology and the easy access to support – “if needed, support is available via a remote connection which enables communication with a technician within minutes,” – made it so that the new operation was set up for success. “Our new Elisam grader helped us achieve the productivity and quality required to immediately compete in the market,” says Miller.
Walla Walla sweet onions double production and reduces cost
Located in Walla Walla, WA, Walla Walla River Packing is the premier supplier of Walla Walla sweet onions. In 2018, they decided to upgrade their onion packing line by incorporating a six- lane, twelve-exit Elisam grader into their operation. The goal of the new line, which went live in June 2019, was to increase production capacity, improve product handling capabilities, decrease labor costs and enhance the quality of their packed product.
As the season progressed, Harry Hamada, Owner and General Manager, was thrilled with the performance of the new line, stating that “The Elisam grader exceeded his expectations.” Harry said that they were able to double their production (running approximately 40 tons per hour) while reducing their labor costs by more than 35%. “Additionally, the consistency and quality of our packed product was excellent,” Harry says. “Overall, Walla Walla couldn’t be happier with the efficient and on-time installation, the performance of the technology and the after-sales service and support provided by Ellips USA,” he concludes.
Ellips helps Idaho farm with continual improvements
Obendorf Farms is methodically expanding their onion growing and packing volumes. Located in Parma, Idaho, Obendorf built a “state-of-the-art” onion packing facility for the 2019/2020 season. As the anchor to their operation, they purchased a six-lane Ellips/Elisam onion grader.
During their first season, they were able to evaluate their performance and experiment with their processes with an eye toward continual improvement. One of these improvements will arrive this coming season, when Obendorf will enhance their grading and sorting capabilities by adding Ellips TrueSort External Quality and Internal Quality technology to their Elisam grader.
Onion packing centres updated about Eqraft optical sorting machine
Last week, the onion sector was brought up to date about upgrades made to the Eqraft optical sorting machine in the past six months. This was done at Dutch onion trader, Hoza, who have the first model of the Eqrafts Eqrader. This machine sorts onions by size, colour, form, weight, and internal as well as external quality. Feedback received at a similar event six months ago, was included in the advancements.
Bas Pomstra, Wim de Rijder and Lijn Moerdijk
The machine at Hoza als gave a lot of insight into how an onion season runs. This input led to further developments of the machine. There have been various mechanical adjustments. The machine has been optimally fine-tuned so the captured camera shots are in sharp focus, regardless of their position. This is all important when it comes to accurate sorting.
Bas Pomstra and Rutger Keurhorst
Bas Pomstra, Head of R&D at Eqraft, shared which mechanical improvements had been made. He mentioned the conveyor belt, a so-called 'V-band', which places the onions in cups and guides them through the machine. "By changing the way this V-band is constructed, there is a more streamlined transition to the cups. An average of 75% to 90% of the cups are filled", says Jim Hoogzand of Hoza.
The machine has a tilting section, in order to check the onions on all sides. The problem with this was that the smaller onions could slip through the chains of cups, which caused mechanical failures. This problem was solved by making a minor adjustment to the machine.
The machine has two integrated cup washing systems. The cups transporting the onions get dirty after a while. The washing system automatically washed these cups. It is advised to wash the cups once a week, but this depends on the batch of onions that has passed through the machine.
Jan Franje and Jaap Wiskerke
The new Tally version's interface has been adjusted. Users find it useful to have so much relevant information displayed on one screen. Real-time information of the sorting process is important. Setting are displayed in the background.
Lindert Moerdijk, Jim Hoogzand, Lennart Moerdijk
The Q eye camera now also features new software, and there are two additional cameras. This means there are now six cameras aimed at one track. This gives even better coverage of the onion, as a whole. The focal distance has been optimally fine-tuned. This means images of onions of any size can be captured in sharp focus, in order to properly judge the quality of the onion.
Besides the mechanical improvements, significant progress has been made in the development of the machine's neural network. The neural network receives data based on a classification model that has been developed. This classification model comprises characteristics used to determine the quality of the onions. The external quality characteristics are divided into 18 categories. Examples of these are: Good - a perfect, or acceptable, onion; Skinned - some cracks, or half or fully skinned; Stains - mild, or heavy stains. These are seven of the 18 external characteristics. You can see a complete overview of these characteristics in the photo.
Bas Pomstra asked those present if these 18 characteristics cover all possible variations. He also asked that onions from a particular batch be checked and the participants then place them in a particular category. This caused much discussion, making it clear that choosing the correct category is no easy task, and that opinions vary widely when it comes to choosing categories. The Eqrader was much quicker, sorting ten onions per second per track!
The neural network has been 'taught' based on these categories. The user can sort batches that meet certain quality characteristics needed for a particular customer or country.
The neural network is a system that requires further development in order to achieve optimal sorting. The software must 'learn' the different characteristics. Pomstra, therefore, called for the neural network to be further developed with help from the onion sector.
There are currently insufficient onions in each of the classification model's categories to supply the neural network with sufficient data. The goal is to collect red and yellow onions in all the categories, as quickly as possible, and to do further tests.
The first results look good. From a batch of 100 000 onions, 80 000 were used for training. These 80 000 onions are used to teach the machine how to distinguish between the various categories. The 20 000 remaining onions, which had not yet been sorted, were used in an 'exam'. The results were good, and came close to the minimum capacity of the traditional readings done on the onions. In the matrix, you see, for example, the reading for stones is at 100 in the diagonal line. This means all stones were removed from the batch.
After Rutger Keurhorst and Bas Pomstra's presentation, there was the opportunity to see the Eqrader in action. It is a very nice process, where the onion are placed one-by-one into the cups. Above the cups is a Modesta dusting extraction system, which blows onions skins and dust away. After the onion is checked, internally, it move through the sorter in order to be checked externally.
After this is done, the onion is turned and placed in a different cup, where the other side is also checked. The sorter now "knows" which onion this is, and categorises it. Crates, containing the desired types of onions, are filled from six different dispensers in the machines, which are fed by an output system.
The dispensers can be adjusted as per the customers wishes, and sorting demands. If the customer wants perfect onions of two different sizes, then two dispensers are used.
The afternoon's conclusion was that the mechanical and electronic developments of the Eqrader are progressing well. Advancements have been made in the past six months. The development of the neural network, using the classification model, has led to the development of a reliable system which can index the onions' various quality characteristics.
Spanish onion packer buys weighing and packing machines
Annually, in the Southern Spanish city of Valencia, Navarro Darder SL packages about 25 000 tonnes of onions. In order to supply their clients in a better and quicker manner, this company has, in recent years, invested heavily in fast, reliable Manter weighing and packing machines. "We are currently working with the MD14 XL. In combination with the latest MBP HS and SAB HS machines, we can quickly change to the required packaging. We now no longer ask our clients when they want to collect; we now ask how many trucks they want to be loaded?" says Commercial Director, José Vte. Darder, laughingly.
Both Cesar Navarro and José Vte. Darder. are convinced that, "by investing in these modern machines we can realise our future growth in a sustainable manner."
Cesar Navarro and José Vte. Darder both see client satisfaction as the most important goal in their daily activities. To ensure this, this business offers a wide range of packaging options for yellow, red, white and sweet onions. Making up 99% of their turnover, onions are by far their most important crop. In early spring, this company also supplies exclusive, regional new potatoes to clients in Spain, as well as abroad. Of the total turnover, 25% remains in Spain. The remaining 75% goes to central markets in the Netherlands, Germany, Northern and Southern Europe and even South America. "Our clients demand a wide product assortment, from small packaging to 5 - 25kg boxes and net bags. It is, therefore, important to us that we can quickly change from one type of packaging to another with our machines", says Navarro. "We deliver a good quality, fast service which is why we can also ask a good price for our products", adds Darder.
"We have known Manter products for a long time", says Navarro. He is impressed with the company's worldwide reputation, as well as with the local attention that he receives from Manter Packaging Iberica. "We know of various Spanish businesses who have been working, with full satisfaction, with these reliable Manter machines for 20 years now. We, ourselves, have a close working relationship with our local man, Albert Llaguerri, and his technical team. Short communication lines are essential. We must be assured of quick assistance if needed. Just-in-time delivery is, after all, important. The combination of the MBP HS and SAB HS machines with MD14 XL weigher allows Navarro Darder to now accurately weigh their large Spanish onions and pack them according to the client's wishes", Navarro explains. "After the introduction of the Manter MBP HS and SAB HS, we quickly knew we would be investing in these new machines."
De MBP HS, places hessian, net and other kinds of bags which have holes and a plastic strip, under the filling hole of the other machine. It has undergone various changes. It is now completely encased and so, will meet future CE norms. This makes it very safe to use. The MPB remains easily accessible thanks to large doors. Its speed has also been increased, which makes this machine, and the SAB HS packaging machine a strong combination. Together, these machines can package and tightly sew closed 20 bags of 25 kg per minute. "Switchovers are also quick now. Within 45 seconds, we can accurately weight and pack with a different kind of packaging", Navarro Darder's Director says.
Looking to the future, these Spanish specialists want to continue expanding their sales. The company is ideally located close to the port of Valencia and the large highways to the important Spanish cities of Madrid and Barcelona, as well as the rest of Europe. This forms a firm basis for the future. In the coming years, the business expects its turnover to increase by 20% per year. "By investing in these modern machines, we can also realise this growth in a sustainable manner in the coming years", says both Navarro and Darder.
The combination of the MBP HS and SAB HS with the MD14 XL weigher means Navarro Darder can now accurately weigh their large Spanish onions and package them to their clients' specifications.
Lindert Moerdijk over MSP Onions' new processing plant:
"Soon we will be able to sort 200,000 tons of onions with 5 people, instead of 80,000 tons with 30"
MSP Onions' new processing plant was on display last week. It was showcased on the Dutch TV network, RTL's, program, 'How it's Done'. The new factory is located in Nieuwdorp, the Netherlands.
"Everything in the plant is automated," says Lindert Moerdijk about the new project. "We used to have 30 people packing 80.000 tons of onions. Now 5 people can process 200.000 tons. The highest levels of sustainability, efficiency, and innovations have come together here. Our onion sorting and packing processes have been revolutionized," says Lindert.
The factory's internal logistics are now fully automated. As a result, there is 60% less transit movement. Everything can also be tracked in real-time. MSP Onions also used Artificial Intelligence (AI).
AI brings the company's sorting technology to the highest level in the world. This is true for both internal and external quality. Quality assurance has enabled never-before-seen packing speeds. At top speed, as much as 120 tons can be packed per hour.
"We work with high-tech cameras and systems linked on a single software platform. The system, using simple language, tells the operator what to do," explains Moerdijk in the TV segment. According to him, this family business' goal is to expand even further. "We eventually want to move towards circular production. It must be completely electricity and CO2 neutral."
According to Lindert, climate change lead to the company making this massive investment. "We have to deal with long rainy and dry periods. That is stressful for onions and disastrous for their quality. Manual sorting could not solve this problem."
"The machines we were using could not assess the onions' internal quality. That was the reason for building this plant. I am extremely proud that we as a local family business - with three brothers and three sons - could make our mark on Dutch soil with this project," Lindert concludes.
"Netherlands: "Narrow margins for packing stations despite large onion exports"
There is currently a great demand for onions. Africa is the front runner with shipments this week to Mauritania, Ivory Coast and Senegal. The prices for field crops have risen to 13 cents for direct sales and 14/15 cents for forward sales. According to André van Damme of Dacomex, this is caused by farmers keeping their doors shut and stocks of commercial companies starting to dwindle. The exporter finds it difficult to make any speculations about the onion market when it comes to the long term. "It's certainly not a done deal. I have confidence in the short term, but after that it's a mystery."
"Exports to Africa will soon dissipate and the question is whether it will be taken over by other customers. Africa is now responsible for half of the exports with about 11.000/12.000 tonnes. The question is whether we can maintain those exports. You need demand from a country like Russia for that, but currently there are few signs of that happening. Countries like Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia have reasonable demand as well, but those exports will soon be taken over by New Zealand."
There is no uniformity yet in the pricing of containers, according to André. The prices have increased by 750 Euro with some shipping agencies. For a container of 30 tonnes, you are talking about an additional cost of 2.5 cents per kilo. In addition, the quality of the onions is poor, according to the exporter. "There are few batches that have nothing wrong with them. A batch with 10% tare is one of the better batches. Imagine if Russia were to enter the market in the near future and they are supplied on credit with lesser quality; the question is how that will turn out."
"It's ridiculous that the margins for sorting and packing stations are so narrow with the great export that we have. We are dealing with poor quality onions, but with the current sorting capacity, we can still easily sort 25,000 to 30,000 tonnes. I have my doubts about how things will go in the future when it comes to double sorting capacity. However, we will find that out in the time to come." concludes André.
German, French and Dutch onion companies visit Gugger-Guillod
JDC Onion Grading Solutions presents optical onion sorting technology
How does this optical onion sorting technology work in practice? What do users see as the main advantages? JDC Onion Grading Solutions invited the top European onion companies to judge this for themselves at the Swiss onion processing and packaging company Gugger-Guillod. Delegations from German, French and Dutch onion companies entered the practical test.
The system was set for class 1 quality standardisation. Those who want to supply this quality, have to be able to rely on every onion with a type of rot, sprout formation or other defects being taken out. And this happens, the enthusiastic guests saw.
Wisconsin native is elected president of National Onion Association
Wisconsin native Doug Bulgrin has been elected National Onion Association President and will serve as the nationwide organization’s chief for the next two years. The National Onion Association (NOA) was incorporated in 1913 and represents more than 500 onion growers, shippers, packers and suppliers throughout the United States.
He is the 32nd president of the National Onion Association. Trustees of the NOA elected him to the position in December during the organization’s annual convention in Naples, Fla.
Bulgrin, 46, has been with Gumz Farms and its predecessor, the Lewiston Corporation, for 30 years. He works at present as the Onion Packing Shed Manager for Gumz Farms, which bought out Lewiston in 1997.
Bulgrin loves the challenge of solving problems. He got involved with the organization a few years back, working on food safety issues. “Rather than doing what someone has told us to do with food safety, I’d rather be involved in helping create and steer policies and rules that make sense,” Bulgrin said.
In his two-year tenure, he wants to concentrate on increasing membership, as well as member participation.
He attended his first Washington D.C. trip with the NOA leadership last year, and his eyes were opened. His expectations going in were, ‘How can I as one person make a difference?’ He quickly learned that he was dealing with human beings — everyday people who needed our industry’s expertise in some of the larger issues affecting the onion industry.
“That awakening in Washington was real. It’s like, ‘We really do matter. We can make a difference,’” Bulgrin said.
He hopes these next two years will be busy with meeting people, increasing membership and industry participation in Washington regulations that affect the onion industry.
Bulgrin said it will take everyone in the membership to help it evolve.
“If the NOA is going to continue to thrive, we have to evolve,” he said. “We need to hear if things are going well, or what aren’t going so well. The more ideas we have out there, the better.”
Bulgrin, who grew up on a dairy farm in Portage, Wis., is married to Nikki, and together they have three teenage children. Bulgrin has spent the last seven years farming with his children to introduce them to agriculture. They farm corn, soybeans and pumpkins.
For more information:
National Onion Association
822 7th St. #510
Greeley, CO 80631
Tel: (970) 353-5895
UK: Onion growers team up to increase growing and packing efficiency
Vegetable growers and suppliers Nationwide Produce and QV Foods have formed a new joint venture to grade and pack onions. Named Anglia Growing Partnership, it will take over the running of Nationwide's £2.5m facility at Long Sutton in Lincolnshire which opened last year, with both companies continuing to grow and market their own crops.
Nationwide group managing director Tim O'Malley said: "By sharing this resource we will both commit to a healthy tonnage flowing through the Long Sutton site and to work together to market the whole crop effectively and efficiently."
QV Foods head of vegetables Peter Taylor added: "Following an extended period of working together, we both see this as a sensible next step to share supply chain costs. We will also reduce investment risks whilst securing vertical integration benefits in the UK onion supply chain."
The two currently market just over 80,000 tonnes of onions a year, and grow 220ha of onions themselves.
Treasure Valley onion growers see the future in new grading technology
Onion growers in the Treasure Valley, which incorporates southwestern Idaho and eastern Oregon, are looking to technology to help them overcome current challenges in the industry. Labor and transportation costs, among other things, are contributing to a tightening of profit margins.
Recently it was announced that two major onion companies had joined forces to form Baker & Murakami. Part of the reason for this merger was the need for modernization. The companies decided to combine their resources and invest in automation, and last year, opened their new state-of-the-art onion packing line.
An essential element of this new packing line was a brand new high-tech onion grader, supplied by Ellips USA and powered by their TrueSort grading software. "For Baker & Murakami, we supplied an 8 lane, 22 exit Elisam Gran Torino onion grader equipped with Ellips’ TrueSort grading technology," said John Albert, GM of Ellips' US operation. "In addition to the electronic grader, our solution includes in-feed conveyance (for optimal onion distribution, singulation and cup fill), return conveyance systems, quality inspection system, catwalks/handrails and all electronics & control systems."
TrueSort uses the latest technology to assess external and internal onion quality in extreme detail and subsequently performs an accepted/rejected calculation completely automatically. "Ellips’ TrueSort grading solution utilizes extremely high definition cameras that work in color and near infrared (NIR) spectrums in order to accurately assess size, color and external quality," Albert continued. "TrueSort also provides a unique internal quality solution that enables our customers to accurately detect internal rot (ring, core or neck) and other internal abnormalities."
(left to right): Erwin Bakker, President and Founder of Ellips & Elisam, John Albert, GM of Ellips USA and Grant Kitamura of Baker & Murakami
Baker & Murakami project - planning to installation
Unsurprisingly, the work required for a project the size of Baker & Murakami's packing line took more than a year to plan. Working closely with Baker & Murakami, as well as other companies working on the project, Ellips ensured that all possible factors were considered.
"The actual installation of our equipment took approximately 4 weeks, however, the design portion of the project began more than one year earlier," Albert recalled. "This design and planning stage is critical since it will help ensure that the customer’s operating requirements and objectives will be met. Objectives and requirements associated with capacity/throughput, grading & sorting criteria, packaging, facility layout, environmental concerns & system integration must all be thoroughly considered."
"Each customer has unique requirements, objectives, constraints and opportunities all of which can affect the specific size, layout and functionality of our solution," he explained. "Therefore, all of our grading systems have similarities, however, no two systems are identical. Our customer’s facilities, volumes and grading & packing requirements can significantly alter the configuration, capacity and functionality of the solution. Additionally, we often supply turnkey solutions that would include peripheral equipment utilized for bin filling & handling, carton & bag filling and handling and palletizing."
"Grading capacity is typically dictated by the number of lanes on the grader, as well as the ability to deliver an optimal cup fill percentage," he continued. "Our distribution and singulation techniques combined with the speed of our grader enable to deliver higher volumes per hour than any of the competitors. Elisam provides onion graders that range in size from 2 to 8 lanes with the ability to run 15 to 70+ tons per hour."
Cameron Skeen, who is the Chief Operating Officer for Baker & Murakami, said that the company was looking to optimize production rates, efficiency and product quality, adding that the new packing line has fulfilled their expectations. “During the planning stage, it was critical to work with a supplier/partner who understood our requirements and could make design and product recommendations that would help ensure we met our timelines and operating objectives," he said. "Due to upgrades and reconfiguration, the facility was not available for equipment installation until May 22nd and we needed to be live by July 25th. Even with these tight timeframes, we were able to meet our goal with the help of Ellips and our other equipment suppliers. We regularly run 70+ tons per hour which exceeded Ellips’ commitment and we believe our grading capabilities, including internal defect detection, and operating efficiency is industry leading. Even though, we experienced some of the expected growing pains associated with implementing a new packing line, we were very pleased with the performance and support delivered by the Ellips & Elisam equipment and staff.”
Brains behind the equipment
While Ellips touts the quality of their Elisam grader, they also highlight that the single most important component is the software operating it - TrueSort. The software analyzes the quality of the onions, both internally and externally, while tracking each individual onion through the system, ultimately delivering it to the proper exit based on pre-determined grade and size parameters selected by the user. For example, a smaller sized onion will make its way automatically to the appropriate bag, box or bin for that size. This extends to internal quality, where any onion that falls below quality thresholds will be sorted by the machine into the products set aside for processing, for example. This also makes quality audits much easier, as each onion can be tracked and traced through the entire process all the way to the end consumer. While competitive systems exist in the marketplace, Ellips says this system is superior due to the ease of creating grading parameters, grading accuracy, determination of internal quality across varieties and the fact that it is fully automated.
"The Ellips True Sort user interface has been designed to provide maximum control to the user," Albert pointed out. "This means that our customers can quickly and easily modify grading criteria in order to address changes in onion quality, customer types or market demands. The accuracy of our weight, size and external functionality is superior and our internal quality solution is the only system currently available that can accurately detect internal defects across yellow, red and white onion varieties."
Automating the Treasure Valley
As mentioned at the start, labor challenges, rising costs and greater competition present many challenges for onion growers, not just in the Northwest, but across the United States. The fact that Baker & Murakami is the product of a partnership between two former rivals just goes to show that those in the industry are looking at many options for solutions. Ellips sees the future involving further cost cutting in the form of automation and improved grading. Their contributions to the Baker & Murakami project and other similar projects in the region, gives an insight in what they foresee for the onion industry, beginning in Idaho's Treasure Valley.
"Along with the new grading system at Baker & Murakami, we have also supplied similar systems to Partners Produce and Owyhee Produce during this past season," Albert explained. "Our primary goal is to make certain that our existing customers are maximizing their return on investment. We ensure they are properly supported and trained so that they can effectively use our grading and sorting technology to optimize their operational performance. If we take care of this primary goal, our secondary goal of being the leading providing of grading and sorting technology for the Treasure Valley onion industry will take care of itself."
John Albert (second from left), with some of the Baker & Murakami team
Apart from onions, it is quite possible to use Ellips' sorting technology for other produce items as well. "Depending on size and shape, it is possible to utilize the same grader for different fruits and vegetables," Albert notes. "Even though each commodity has different software grading profiles and algorithms, they can be utilized on the same machine. For example, apples, pears, cherries, blueberries, peaches, apricots, citrus, pomegranates, kiwi and dates can all be analyzed."
Albert concluded by saying that ensuring quality outcomes is what Ellips will be focusing on in coming years. "I forecast an increased demand for 'effective' electronic grading and sorting solutions," he said. "Labor costs and availability are obvious reasons why this technology will continue to proliferate. However, the more compelling benefits may be associated with the quality and consistency of the product that can be delivered to the market. We have seen this same dynamic occur with other commodities where the customer demands the type of quality that might only be achieved through the use of electronic grading. Additionally, our internal quality solution enables our customers to salvage bad lots that previously would have been sent to a processor or diverted for very low returns."
For more information:
Tel: +1 (206) 915-4962
"Guaranteed quality and big savings in labour. These are the main advantages of an optical sorting line compared to conventional sorting. The camera system faultlessly picks out the onions that don't meet the demands. The user sets the desired quality standards themselves," says Bas Ruygrok of JDC Onion Grading Solutions.
Besides the reliability the visitors also notice the simple control. To illustrate the length standard for onion tails was set. Longer than 4 cm? Straight back to the remover. With one press of a button. Even calibrating the camera and lighting system was fully automated.
The integrated sorting solutions by JDC can be rendered from 5,000 tonnes of onions per year.
For more information:
JDC Onion Grading Solutions
Tel: 0223 660 666
Delayed start for Ontario onion season
The first onions of the Ontario season have just started shipping. The initial harvest is of transplant onions, while seeded onions are yet to be harvested. Growers say that both harvests have been delayed by two weeks because of the variable weather conditions in Ontario, which began in the spring.
"We typically begin harvesting transplant onions at the start of August, with seeded starting at the end of August," said Quinton Woods of Gwillimdale Farms. "However, this year we started on the transplants two weeks ago, while it will be another 7 - 10 days before we start harvesting seeded onions. Ontario experienced a cold, wet spring, then it was hot and dry for a while during summer. Now it is cool again."
Woods noted that planting was disrupted and resulted in some variability between fields. "This depended on how wet the fields were when planting and will be a big factor in the upcoming season," he said.
Quality is good
Woods added that the variability will be in the form of yield, rather than quality, saying that the condition of the onions is very good. Overall, despite the delayed harvest and potential yield challenges, growers are satisfied with the crop.
"What we are seeing is a good crop, with quality and condition remaining excellent," Woods said. Producers like Gwillimdale Farms first top the onions before digging them back into the soil to cure. They then return one week later to harvest the cured onions and send them off to the packing house.
The company primarily produces yellow cooking onions as well as some red, with options for retail and bulk packs. "Retail is our biggest avenue and so we offer 2lb and 5lb consumer packs, as well as 25lb and 50lb bulk bags," Woods shared. "Our distribution focuses mainly on eastern Canada and the Northeast United States, but we also send some onions down to Florida and the Southeast."
Plenty of supply
As it stands now, the market is well stocked with onions from various regions in North America. The Northwest season was also delayed due to weather concerns, but since the start of its season, volume has been strong. Woods noted that this is in contrast to last season. "There is plentiful supply coming out of the Northwest right now," he said. "There is no shortage out of any region which has resulted in heavy pressure on the market."
The thought is that growers wanted to take advantage of last season's good prices when the market was tight. According to Woods, more acreage was planted which has resulted in an increase in volume. But there is hope that the market will turn once the storage crop starts. "The heavy volume is mainly on new crop onions, as they need to find a home," he observed. "We hope it turns around when we get into the storage crop."
Gwillimdale Farms has been undertaking significant expansion projects, with the recent opening of an expanded refrigerated storage facility. Woods said the expanded storage will allow for another 7 million pounds of late season storage onions and is now operational. "We imported much of the cooling and storage equipment from France from Klim'top, and we are very excited to put product into it."
Additionally, Gwillimdale Farms is currently expanding its packaging facility, which Woods explained will triple the current capacity. "We are in the midst of a big expansion project with our new onion packing facility. It is due to open in January 2020 and will be more efficient, and have more and better equipment than our current facility."
For more information:
Ph: +1 (905) 775-2889
Extraction solution for potato and onion packer, Awex, in Poland
Over the years, Jongejans Luchttechniek has become a household name for extraction systems in the agricultural sector. These systems are developed in the Netherlands and then installed, worldwide, at many growers and packing companies. Issues with dust and skins are then resolved.
Recently, Jongejans supplied an extraction system to the potato and onion packing plant, Awex, in Poland. Skins and dust from the onions are sucked out of the supply line as well as from the eight packing lines. This chain filtering system makes for clean onions. These can then be packed, free from dust and skins. Jongejans also found a solution for the sealing smoke that is released during the packing process.
“In recent years, we had a different system for the sealing smoke. This ran alongside the extraction system. However, so much of the vapor remained in the building that you could smell it everywhere. Jongejans has solved this problem well, in one go. They installed a separate extraction unit for the sealing smoke," says Awex's CEO, Radoslaw Tyc.
“An extraction system had to be specially designed to be able to remove all the sealing smoke from the rooms properly. From experience, we know that sealing smoke is very greasy. It sticks to everything. When it is extracted along with dust, the pipes become clogged quickly. " says Jesse Vonk from Jongejans.
"This is why had to suck the smoke out separately. We also developed a special fan for this. This fan is installed inside or outside the working area. It has a small pipe that leads outward. This fan does not get blocked like other fans would, if used for this."
All the air that is sucked out the building is then returned, filtered, to the space. It is extracted by one of the 40 carefully placed extraction points. This clean air is sanitized and returned at the same temperature. This system, therefore, also provides a climate-neutral solution, even during the winter. The system's capacity can be remotely adjusted. This means it will always meet the required need for real-time quantities of air.
“When the system was delivered, our technical team was fully instructed by Jongejans. Now, we can make all the adjustments and changes ourselves. Jongejans in Den Helder (the Netherlands) is there as a backup," says Radoslaw.
"For us, it was a major advantage that we could keep working as normal while the system was being installed. The line did not stand still for a single day. Another advantage is that the system runs completely silently. That is no small thing if your house is right next to the plant."
For more information:
Tel: +31 (0) 223 660 666
Growth is driven by need for automation
Packaging company breaks ground on new potato and onion facility
“Earlier this month, we broke ground on a new 90,000 square foot facility located in Pasco, WA,” says Marsha Verwiebe with Volm Companies. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Wednesday, August 10 at the property site. Volm provides packaging and equipment solutions to the fresh produce industry. At the new facility mesh bags and other packaging will be manufactured for the potato and onion industries in the Northwest. In addition, it inventories onion and potato packing machinery and parts.
Potatoes and onions
Potatoes and onions rank as the number one and two most important produce varieties for Volm. “We produce and distribute nearly any type of packaging used in the storing, packaging and shipping of fresh potatoes and onions,” shared Verwiebe. “We also offer the most complete line of scales and bagging equipment available in the market today” she added. The Pasco location serves all of the Western states, including Washington, Oregon, California and the Western Canadian provinces.
Growth driven by need for automation
In 2007, Volm acquired a packaging supply company based in Pasco. With Volm’s expertise in self manufactured packaging products, the company was able to supply both the onion and potato growers and shippers in the area with more solutions. “We differentiate ourselves as we offer both equipment and packaging solutions,” shared Verwiebe. “The need for automation in the handling, packing and shipping of fresh produce has driven our growth.”
Fully automated system that fills onion bag
Due to growth, the main facility now is too small, forcing us to house our inventory in other facilities and use modular buildings onsite to accommodate our current staff" said Daniel Mueller, President & CEO. “Our goal is to strive to be the Most Valued Partner to our customers, and this new facility will help us more efficiently meet their daily service needs from a centralized location, as well as more completely meet our customer’s increasing standards for food safety.
The new distribution facility will be located at the 5700 block of Industrial Way in Pasco, less than two miles from the existing location. Construction is expected to be completed in spring of 2017.
For more information:
Idaho onion producer chooses an optical grading line for new packing station
Every single day, optical sorting proves its worth for onion sorters in the US. That is why Eddie Rodriguez of Partners Produce did not hesitate before choosing an optical onion sorting machine. Starting this summer, a fully automated packing station has been running in Idaho, with a Ellips - Elisam sorting machine.
A blizzard forced Rodriguez to rebuild his onion packing station from the ground up in January 2017. The new automated line, which detects both internal and external defects, has been supplied by Wyma, Ellips - Elisam, Volm and Verbruggen, with the capacity to process 80 tons of onions per hour. The packer is delighted with the new line, being able to change settings via his iPhone or iPad.
Instead of the 50 employees needed on the previous line, there are now only 20 employees on hand, while the sorting capacity has increased enormously because the line keeps going 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Erwin Bakker of Ellips expects many other packers to switch over to optical sorters in the coming years. "This is the future of onion sorting. Retailers now know that this technology is around and they are going to require from their suppliers to have the produce checked internally. Our big advantage is that besides the completely new lines we create, our software is also suitable for existing machines. Our TrueSort software runs on every sorting machine, of every make," says Erwin.
As one of the few, Ellips uses the 'transmittance' method, whereby a complete product is scanned, not just a part of it. Aspects like rot, but also sugar content, dry matter, acidity and maturity can be accurately determined. In addition to the onions, this supplier of optical sorting technology also uses its software for apples, citrus, cherries, dates, kiwis, blueberries, pears, asparagus and potatoes.
Together with its subsidiary Elisam, Ellips recently acquired the JDC sales activities in the onion industry. Ellips has a service and sales point in Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. In the US, Ellips USA is represented both in the East and in the West. In many other countries Ellips - Elisam works with local representatives. "By working with local service teams, our customers are always assured of good support for their sorting processes, at any time and any place," concludes Erwin.