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Fruitful endeavor

Emblème Canneberge has only been in business for about a year, but the cranberry processor is already in growth mode. The Quebec, Canada-based company is expanding its production facility to increase its capacity to deliver frozen cranberries to the supply chain. That includes installing a digital sorter to help maximize product yield and quality while improving efficiency.

Three families of experienced cranberry growers founded Emblème Canneberge in the fall of 2016. The company harvests, freezes and distributes cranberries to food processors. After a successful 2016 crop, Emblème decided to expand its facility and enhance its operations.

Sorting it out

As part of that expansion, Emblème installed a VERYX C140 from Key Technology to detect and remove more foreign materials and defects from the product stream with virtually no false rejects. The chute-fed digital sorter features a 1,400-mm-wide inspection area that sorts up to 13.6 metric tons (30,000 lbs.) of frozen berries per hour. It uses front- and rear-mounted laser scanners to perform object-based sorting. Because the laser scanners operate within the visible light and near-infrared wavelengths, the sorter recognizes the colors of objects and their structural properties and selects optimal ejection strategies for each item in the product stream.

“With its front and rear sensors, our VERYX sorter looks at all sides of each object — no fruit that has a spot of rot gets by. This sorter removes leaves and twigs as well as other foreign material, such as glass. By identifying colors, it catches white and yellow berries and fruit with color defects. The infrared detection enables the sorter to find and eject defective cranberries that are filled with ice because this laser light scatters differently than it does on good fruit,” says Vincent Godin, president of Emblème. “VERYX gives us the confidence to seek GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) certification, which we expect to have completed later this year.”

Although the harvest season for cranberries is only six weeks, Emblème pulls cranberries from its freezers year-round and runs them through a sizing and sorting line that is anchored by VERYX. First, a tote spiker breaks clusters and a bin dumper feeds an auger transport to a cluster breaker. Next, an Iso-Flo size separation shaker from Key removes clusters and objects that are larger than 22 mm along with items such as small fruit, sticks and ice that are less than 10 mm. Berries and other objects between 10 mm and 22 mm continue on to a metal detector before a Key air cleaner removes lightweight materials like leaves prior to feeding the VERYX sorter. The sorter removes the remaining foreign materials and berries with defects as defined by Emblème. The sorter’s “accept” stream leads to a Key size grader with grading screens that separate the good fruit into three size grades.

Beyond sorting

To meet customers’ different specifications, Emblème uses VERYX’s recipe function to program and save each customer’s requirements for cranberries. “We create different recipes and save them in a library to draw from at a later date. Every time we run a particular product, we get consistent results,” Godin says. “Some clients want berries that are only a certain level of red. So the sorter is programmed to detect and eject pink berries during those runs.”

Emblème also uses VERYX’s information analytics capability to improve its process efficiency. With the information analytics feature, Emblème can extract product and operational data the sorter collects to better understand where it can make improvements in the production process. “For example, by monitoring the number of ejections for each type of defect, we learn about the quality of incoming product,” Godin says. “If we see too many white or yellow berries, we can let that grower know and suggest that they add sulfur to their field a little earlier next year.”

VERYX is also helping to maintain Emblème’s labor costs – particularly important given that Emblème operates its sizing and sorting line five days a week for 16 hours per day and expects that to increase as customer demand for its frozen cranberries grow. The sorter’s intelligent features enable it to adapt to normal changes in the product and environment. With auto learning, self-adjustment algorithms, predictive system diagnostics and smart alarms, VERYX can operate without operator intervention during normal production. “VERYX is operating virtually unattended here,” Godin says.

Godin says the VERYX digital sorter gives the company a competitive edge. “It allows us to consistently produce frozen cranberries at the high-quality standards our clients demand. That’s our biggest priority,” he says. “This Key sorter achieves that while requiring a low level of labor and producing high yields.”