AUSTRALIA – Montague, a family-owned fresh fruit supplier, after an exhaustive selection process for a partner for its new world-class processing facility, has settled on TOMRA Food, a manufacturer of sensor-based sorting machines and integrated post-harvest solutions for the food industry, for its state- of- the- art food grading technology.

The 18000 square meter facility with a capacity in excess of 40 million kg is one of the largest in the world. It features a 6-lane Multi-Lane Sorting (MLS) System with a capacity of 3,000 bins.

All movements from pre-size to finished carton are ensured via robotics in a flow-through design that takes the fruit from the orchard, through the facility, and into storage.

The solution provided by TOMRA Food complements the MLS as it incorporates its Inspectra2, Spectrim and UltraView inspection systems.

These deliver gentle handling and grading accuracy that helps to reduce food waste and increase pack out.

The three grading systems inspect the fruit as it enters the production process to ensure the highest quality of the end product.

The Inspectra2 platform identifies internal defects with great accuracy using Near-infrared (NIR) inspection.

Spectrim optical sorting platform also utilizes infrared to detect color or skin marks and bruises that are not visible to the naked eye.

Further, the UltraView inspection module is fitted with cameras to point out on the more complex defects such as russet (reddish brown color) or frost rings on the stem and calyx of the fruit.

The state-of-the-art packhouse was officially opened in April but has been partly operational since early-2021. The packhouse is equipped with Tomra’s

Paul Slupecki, head of global sales at TOMRA Fresh Food remarked that the grading accuracy of Tomra systems offers peace of mind and protects the brand, ensuring the highest quality produce, improved hygiene and food safety, and the assurance that the right fruit is always in the right box.

Rowan Little, chief innovation officer of Montague, said the company had clear expectations when it came to fitting out its packhouse and choosing Tomra’s technology so it could meet its customers’ needs.

 “The accurate grading of fruit gives us the ability to closely align our product to our customers’ requirements. From a production perspective, the project will give us greater visibility of fruit grade in the process, meaning less fruit in packed cartons in cold storage,” he said.

The digital connectivity offered by Tomra’s solution addressed Montague’s need for packhouse-wide integration.

“The potential to provide timely and accurate data up and down the supply chain will be critical in the longer term. For growers, this will mean the ability to manage orchard activity to address issues that have negatively impacted packout,” Little added.

He noted that for the retailer, it will mean more data on fruit characteristics prior to the raising of purchase orders. This will allow for the better matching of orders to the fruit manifest.

The project for the new facility stands out not only for its scale and state of the art technology, but also for its timely completion amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.