U.S – Sunkist Research and Technical Services, a division of Sunkist Growers that develops best-in-class citrus fruit sorting and packing equipment, has debuted a fully-automated next generation sorter known as Sunsortai machine for citrus fruits.
The new sorter uses Google Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to evaluate the intrinsic quality of each piece it processes, including any potential defects.
Its strength lies in its ability to use a proprietary imaging system to automatically identify fruit characteristics such as size, shape, weight, blemishes and even the decay that might not be visible to the naked eye.
The machine can be trained to recognize blemishes and defects, from citrus greening to oleocellosis, or citrus cankers. All types of oranges, lemons, mandarins, and even grapefruit have been processed with the new sorter.
“Bringing AI to the fruit sorting process allows our packhouses to dramatically increase the speed, accuracy and efficiency of their sorting operations.
“Sunsortai equipment can conduct a comprehensive fruit assessment and sort the piece accordingly, all in one pass. This offers substantial operational efficiencies and improvements,” said Aaron Gorsky, General Manager of Research and Technical Services.
Since every packhouse is unique, Sunsortai machines can be customized to serve facility’s individual needs and it will readily adapt to existing conveying systems. It employs a proven mechanical design that is fast, reliable – but also gentle – when it comes to handling mass quantities of freshly picked fruit.
“One of this AI sorter’s greatest features is its ability to learn. Through repetition, the sorter learns to distinguish a defects’ appearance from normal anomalous features like blossoms and stems.
“This happens in one pass, so it eliminates the need for special lines, manned by separate sorting specialists, who focus on specific blemishes. It’s a huge time saver,” said Gorsky.
Following a successful pilot in Sunkist packing houses, the Sunsortai sorter is now available to any processing facility that needs to increase revenues through fast and accurate sorting. Multiple installations are already in use in Spain and Argentina.
Sunsortai is a culmination of years of AI research and Sunkist’s expertise in building a robust grading system.
“It is leaps and bounds from a generation ago, where groups of workers pick out defects from a conveyor belt. Today, Sunsortai has the capability to sort and grade a fruit in thousandths of a second with the reliability worthy of the label “Made Proudly in the USA”,” said the company.