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Organic farmer optimizes packaging

With a workforce of 500, Riverford Organic Farmers deliver some 47,000 boxes of organic vegetables, salad, and fruit to households in England every week. The products are sold only in England and Wales. Until recently, everything was weighed by hand. Three employees were able to manage up to 15 packs/min.

Now that has changed rather significantly. After analyzing a number of suppliers offering combination scales, Riverford opted for a Model MP-14-9600-2500-H-UL system from MULTIPOND.

“MULTIPOND was our clear favourite,” says James MacGregor, General Manager of Riverford’s wash barn operation. “MULTIPOND was the only manufacturer of multihead weighers that was able to cover our broad product range. Especially as the large chard leaves presented a huge problem in fully automated handling for the other manufacturers of multihead weighers. We are convinced by the company’s broad experience with such products. Also Geoff Tandy, Managing Director of MULITPOND UK, gave us the confidence that we are able to successfully mix the product, thus saving us money on buying a separate mixing machine.”

The most diverse range of products can be handled, from lettuce to chard leaves to various types of vegetables needing to be weighed by a fully automated process. The product is fed to the weighing system by a conveyor. Once at the top of the weigher, the product is first conveyed to the prefeed hoppers via the radially positioned feed trays and then to the weigh hoppers below. A computer uses the partial portions to determine the best combination that achieves the target weight, which is anywhere from 50 to 500 g, depending on product and packaging. The fully automated calibration of the proprietary load cells ensures the highest accuracy and availability by means of calibration weight.

After the actual weighing process, the accurate weight portions are transferred using a timing hopper to the form/fill/seal machine below. The line runs continuously at up to 56 weighings/min, depending on product and target weight. The standard deviation is less than 1% of the target weight to be achieved.

Finally, a conveyor takes the packed product to a collection point. Here, a worker distributes the packages among the organic boxes and adds other products.

The weigher is operated from a user-friendly color touchscreen monitor. All product contact parts were precisely adjusted to the production requirements and to the products being weighed in order to enable ideal product flow.

“We are impressed most of all by how perfectly the weigher handles our diverse products,” says John Philip, Production Supervisor. “The extremely simple operator guidance and the logical structure of the operating unit are also big plus points for MULTIPOND.”

Riverford fills organic boxes 5 days a week in a single-shift operation. Around 15,000 packs are weighed and packed every day. Wash walls have been installed close to the weighers so that the machine’s contact parts can be wet-cleaned simply and safely. As with all MULTIPOND multihead weighers, the quick and tool-free removal of product contact parts effectively reduces standstill time for cleaning and maintenance work.

MacGregor is happy with the on-site support from the MULTIPOND UK subsidiary. “The concentrated knowledge, the splendid support, and the fast service of MULTIPOND is absolutely fantastic. We feel very comfortable and have great faith in the MULTIPOND brand and the team in the UK. We consider MULTIPOND to be a very strong partner to Riverford.”