Westfalia Fruit Colombia (WFC) has inaugurated the largest and most advanced avocado processing plant in Colombia. The Sonsón-based plant significantly extends the company’s processing capacity, adding its two other facilities in Antioquia.
The packhouse, which houses the latest Compac grading and sorting equipment, was officially opened on 18 January at a ceremony for more than 200 guests including Colombia’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and other local dignitaries, as well as representatives from industry organisations and top management from South Africa’s Westfalia Group and Chile’s Agricom, Westfalia’s Latin American partner.
WFC started its avocado operation in 2012, and has since grown to become Colombia’s biggest exporter. Over the past six years, it has exported more than 800 containers to international markets including the UK, the Netherlands, France, the US, Spain, Canada and Saudi Arabia.
According to government figures, Colombian avocado exporters grew 413 per cent between 2015 and 2017, rising from US$10.3m to US$52.9m.
With the investment in the new Sonsón facility, the company expects to triple its production capacity to support its continued growth.
“This inauguration is an event of great significance for Colombia’s Hass avocado export industry,” said Pedro Aguilar, WFC’s general manager.
“Such an investment is a sign of great confidence in this country…and makes a strong statement of belief in the region, which has become a true cluster for the production and export of Hass avocados.”
The plant is equipped with Compac Multi Lane Sorter (MLS) and Inspectra2 systems. Jacinto Trigo, Compac’s Latin America regional director said the machines ensured consistently high quality and optimum grading precision.
“Together with the high quality after-sales service that Compac is able to deliver, the packhouse technology enables the company to meet its requirements in postharvest processing capacity, minimise waste and ensure its customers’ satisfaction,” Trigo noted.
The five-lane Compac MLS can process 25 tonnes of avocados per hour. The fruit is then inspected by the Inspectra2 platform, which uses NIR technology to test the internal properties of each piece of fruit and deliver consistently high grading accuracy.
It detects defects that are not visible externally and sorts the good fruit from the bad, eliminating the need to cut samples of fruit.
Most importantly, it grades the avocados on dry matter and softness, which indicate the maturity of the fruit.
This allows the company to pack the fruit according to its customers’ requirements, ensuring they receive the highest quality fruit at optimal maturity for their operation.
“With this technology, Westfalia is able to deliver consistently high quality, enhancing its brand perception and increasing the export opportunities for its Hass avocados,” the company said.