South African exporter Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing and its parent packhouse Two-a-Day have invested in new technologies to improve their final product and reduce quality-related claims which could amount to millions of rand.
Conrad Fick, marketing director for Tru-Cape, says this is in line with a policy to search for ways to better deliver high quality fruit to the consumer.
Fick says that the newly installed Greefa 10-lane sorter at Two-a-Day in Grabouw near Cape Town can process eight fruits per second per lane and is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.
“Combined with the new iFA light technology that 'sees' into the heart of each apple or pear that is processed, we can now deliver a better final product with fewer issues,” he says.
“Our packhouses have for a while now had camera-scanning equipment which increases productivity by 25 per cent, sorts faster and more accurately than before, as well as the one gigabyte Digital GigE camera which captures a full high-definition image of 1900x1024 pixels to make correct colour selection more efficient.
“Three technologies converge to produce the highest level of sorting intelligence available on the market today and with the iFA sorting at Two-a-Day we will soon be able to look inside the fruit. This will allow us to check elements such as measuring bric - the amount of sugar in the product – and check for defects such as internal browning which could not, until now, be determined without cutting into each piece of fruit.
Two-a-Day’s Quality Manager Johan Saayman explains that the iFA technology shines a high-intensity light through the fruit and the software, which is programmed for differing conditions, measures the variance in the intensity of the light produced by the lamps and the light received underneath each piece of fruit to determine any internal irregularities. “In basic terms this is a fruit-friendly way of taking an ‘x-ray’ of each fruit without harming it in any way,” he says.
Fick says that as consumer tastes and demands become ever more exacting, Tru-Cape’s packhouse ability to add algorithms that sort to ever higher colour and blemish-free standards becomes essential.
“Although harmless, and not impacting on the eating quality of fruit, stem-end russeting (the brown markings around the stem of a Golden Delicious, for example,) is only cosmetically pleasing to a certain standard,” he says.
The Greefa cameras can calculate the level of russet better than any other. “On bi-colour fruit for example, stem-end russet is even harder to discern without the value that the cameras deliver.
Saayman explains: “Not only can the system measure sunburn on apples as well as tell the difference between hail marks and other blemishes, but it can also track fruit bruising better than any comparable system and now also flag for core rot, internal browning and even low fruit pressures.”
Fick says that Tru-Cape shares the information gleamed from the sorting technology at Two-a-Day with Ceres Fruit Growers as well as their growers and pack houses in The Langkloof.
“Our competitive advantage is not only that we source our fruit from a wide range of climatic areas but that we can share any relevant information from analysing fruit with our growers and can use it as an early-warning method to detect any potentially damaging trends.”