Optical sorting: Gaining new grounds

May, 20, 2017

Internal quality is a hot item in the onion sector. After the United States now also Europe follows with  optical sorting. There has been a collaboration between Ellips/Elisam and JDC since 2014. The camera sorting machines of Ellips/Elisam and the extraction systems of Jongejans Luchttechniek  have proven themselves to such an extent in the US that is has been decided to proceed with this cooperation on The European market.  JDC-Elisam have realized multiple projects in the onion sector nationally and abroad. Also TOP Onions have recently decided to change over  to their optical sorting system.

In recent years, sorting by Internal Quality has become a core business for Ellips. “We have done many large onion projects in recent years, especially in the United States. The European onion sector has been hesitant for a long time but thanks to the improved technology we are gaining ground rapidly”, said Erwin Bakker of Ellips. “Onions packers are still skeptical, but when we sit down with them and compare the sorting results from electronic sorting versus manual sorting then there is no further discussion required. The results speak for themselves. In a good season internal quality is virtually not used although there will always be some internal rot.

“We concentrate primarily on the grey area in which you can determine how many bad onions there still are amongst the good and how many good onions there still are amongst the bad. We try to make this grey area as small as possible. What we have to realize is that when you have a batch of onions of a very bad quality you have to sort these onions extra sharp to ensure that the sorted batch of good onions is clean. As a result more good onions will end up with the bad. Of course you cannot make a batch of onions with a very bad quality better but if you can sort 50 percent of good onions from a batch of 35 percent tare which would otherwise be thrown away, then that is, of course, a significant improvement which could never be achieved  by manual sorting. ”

ONE SORTING SCHEDULE IN DEVELOPMENT.  It is a great advantage, according to Erwin Bakker, that no training period is required on the systems of Ellips and therefore no loss of production time. When a sorting line is installed, the operator can get started right away. “Over the past period we have made immense progress and we notice that the onion sector in Europe is now also open to optical sorting. For now it is important to give sales a boost through further development.  In the short term, we hope to present one profile which can sort white, yellow and red onions. At the moment we use different profiles for each type. A red onion, for example, absorbs more light than a yellow onion and then there are also differences between an American Red Onion and a European.

The Swiss onion company Gugger-Guillod SA has recently acquired a new optical sorting line and Jongejans Air Technology supplied the extraction plant. Gugger works with local Swiss growers who produce onions for them. These onions go to the largest Swiss distribution centers for the retail sector. “We process approximately 6,000 tons of onions on an annual basis,” said Roland Gugger. “We like to be ahead in the field of technology and would like to continue to operate at the top level of the Swiss market.

The improved techniques of optical sorting was reason enough for us to invest. “Before, all onions used to be manually checked and sorted. The new sorting line provides the company with a significant improvement. “We can now guarantee better quality, give our producers equal service regardless of the quantity. Plus all activities can always be retrieved and reviewed at a later date. The Automation also results in a saving on personnel costs. ” (CH)


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