Writen by: Miranda McLaren
Published by: Packaging Gateway
The Spinaflex belt directs each carrot to the correct outlet.
Around the world, countless potato and carrot producers have made, or are thinking of making, the wise decision of investing in optical sorting equipment for their packhouses. Other than the obvious benefit of labour savings, upgrading vegetable packhouses with optical sorting machines ensures consistent quality output and provides the opportunity to optimise an entire crop’s value.
One brand at the forefront of this technology is Newtec, an industry-leading innovator of automated grading equipment for potatoes and carrots. The company’s Celox-P-UHD for potatoes and the Celox-C-UHD for carrots grade products by their quality, size and shape simultaneously. With the option for up to 16 different outlets and either 4, 8 or 12 lanes, the Celox models offer vegetable producers a wide, customisable range of profitable ways to grade their produce, whether it’s a ‘perfect’ carrot for premium supermarket selections or a lesser-quality one for industrial processing.
Based in Denmark, Newtec has been engineering and manufacturing its optical sorting machines for more than 20 years. In 2007, it founded its subsidiary Qtechnology to develop intelligent camera technology for its sorting machines.
Upgrading the Celox-C-UHD carrot sorting machine
The camera optics and sorting machine hardware and software have been repeatedly upgraded over the years, enabling the machines to achieve increasingly higher levels of precision and consistency in all outlets. For example, last year, the company’s most recent update of the Celox-C-UHD improved and repositioned the machine’s LED light bars to deliver a more homogeneous light distribution across all lanes. Due to further changes to the camera section, the updated hardware also enhanced the machine’s identification of a range of different product defects.
Newtec Engineering A/S Head of Software Rasmus Andersen says: “The new lighting system aimed to get optimal light covering the full width of the machine, thus ensuring consistent grading results on all lanes. In addition, the repositioning of the light bars has drastically decreased the daily cleaning tasks.
“A common problem for producers with cold storage facilities is tip rot. With the tilted camera section, we are now able to see these much clearer, along with other types of end defects.”
Superior carrot grading with updated sorting software
The release came with updated software, which improved the detection of spots on ‘double carrots’. It also featured an enhanced notification system and new filters for detecting seasonal and regional defects.
Andersen adds: “A typical challenge for optical sorting machines is when products are not separated and enter the camera section side by side, a so-called double. With the latest hardware and software changes, we are able to actively grade the doubles as two separate products and direct them to two different outlets when they differ in size or quality.
“The aim of the updated notification system is two-fold: first, inform the operator about problems such as excessive dirt on the lanes or products getting stuck somewhere. Next up is what to do when this happens. The Celoxes offer a subscription-based notification system where the operator can decide between multiple events on what to do in case of different types of problems.
“The two Celox models are in constant development with two annual software releases. We strive to be backwards compatible and distribute the releases as over-the-air updates to existing machines. Apart from new features and functions, some of the focal points for the last couple of releases have been robustness, stability, user experience, and machine maintenance.”
The future of vegetable grading at Newtec
Specific product upgrades aside, Newtec Engineering A/S is dedicated to delivering sorting solutions that are always one step ahead. As a result, it has been investing significant resources towards the research and development of innovative solutions that leverage the possibilities of modern technology and automation.
“With the option for up to 16 different outlets and either 4, 8 or 12 lanes, the Celox models offer vegetable producers a wide, customisable range of profitable ways to grade their produce.”
Back in the 90s, Newtec began implementing artificial intelligence (AI) within its sorting machines. AI has remained at the core of the company’s technology ever since, enabling the machines to achieve high levels of consistency and precision. With the computing power now available in embedded systems, Newtec looks forward to furthering advancements in this field.
The company has also been developing algorithms that can analyse and determine the optimal way to split a batch according to the customers’ requirements. The result is an automated parameter adjustment process that takes into account the given raw material, as well as the orders to be delivered.
In addition, Newtec has been focusing on equipping its sorting machines with the ability to not only analyse the size, shape and surface of the potato or carrot but also to reveal any internal defects that the vegetable may have. By deploying complementary vision systems with various types of spectral analysis, this trend involves measuring the chemical composition of the product to assess internal conditions such as moisture, oil and sugar levels.
With these being only a few examples of the company’s exciting developments, it goes without saying that investing in Newtec sorting machinery not only brings your packhouse up-to-date with the latest technology but also partners you with an innovative and experienced company that is already prepared for the industry’s future.