Spain: “We didn’t expect such a high demand for our blueberry calibrators”
Fabricio Santos, of Elifab: “The sector is undergoing great changes”
The demand from large distributors for perfect blueberries, without external damage and with homogeneous calibres, is on the rise. This, together with the high labour costs and the limited availability of it in a sector that expects the production volumes to increase significantly in the next 4 or 5 years, is reason enough for the blueberry sector to invest significantly in sorting, calibration and packaging technology.
Elifab, a young company based in Spain that offers automatic calibration, selection and packaging solutions, has been witness to this. It certainly did not expect to grow so much this year. In fact, 2017 had been planned as a year for the presentation of prototypes and tests, leaving sales for 2018.
“The truth is that this growth has caught us a bit by surprise. When we started working on this blueberry calibration technology in 2016, we aimed to create a design and present and test a new prototype through a client in 2017, introducing improvements or changes based on the tests. We hadn’t expected to start selling already. The tests yielded very positive results; so much so, that we even sold the prototype,” says Fabricio Santos, president of Elifab. “As a result of this, we quickly received a lot of orders in 2017, and the number of them has continued to increase. It has been a real challenge to meet so much demand, so now we can only take orders for 2019.”
“Our presence as exhibitors at the recent Fruit Logistica, in Berlin, was a real success, far exceeding our expectations in terms of the number of visitors and motivating us to get ready for a promising future. The only problem we have now is being able to meet such a high demand. More than 70 visitors asked us for our prices and for more information about our machinery. For this reason, our great challenge for 2018 is to carry out the construction of new facilities with new offices, which we plan to finish in December this year,” he continues. “It will be a challenge for Elifab to hire all the necessary staff to be able to double the current business volume, covering the production, design, management, marketing etc. We’ll also work hard to be able to start 2019 in the new warehouse and the new offices.”
Fabricio Santos, at Elifab’s stand at Fruit Logistica 2018.
The berry sector in Spain is undergoing major changes when it comes to blueberry calibration and selection processes. There are many companies that are investing, by necessity, in last generation machinery.
According to Fabricio Santos, “the investment in calibration, selection and automatic packaging technology will continue to increase, especially in the next 3 or 4 years, in which the production of blueberries is expected to grow substantially. The issue is not just that companies need to save on labour costs, which are very high for berries, but also that they need to handle the growth in the production. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find enough skilled workers, and companies compete with each other to get them.
With our calibrators and packing machines, we can reduce labour costs by up to 70% at the plant and solve this problem, which could become even more severe in the near future. We are not making jobs redundant, but moving them from the plant to the field, where there is still no automatic harvesting technology.”
Elifab is now testing its new Dynamic Filler system, which fills the tubs directly from the calibrator. “We are very satisfied with the tests we are carrying out through two clients in Huelva and in Scotland. This system will soon be applied to cherries as well. It is effective in preventing external damage to the fruit. With our system, the fruit is already calibrated, weighed and placed directly in the tub. And you don’t just prevent the fruit from suffering bumps, you also save a lot of space in the warehouse,” concludes Fabricio.