Spanish berry supplier Coophuelva has revealed that the installation of what is reckoned to be Europe’s largest blueberry packing line – and one of the largest anywhere in the world – has had an immediate positive impact on its business prospects.
Underlining the rapid emergence of blueberries as a key export product in a region of Spain normally synonymous with strawberries, Coophuelva’s decision to purchase a 32-lane sorting and grading system from Italian technology specialist Unitec has reportedly resulted in a spike in commercial interest.
“Since we bought Unitec technologies for optical sorting of blueberries, the advantages have been immediate,” explains director Bartolomé Fernández. “All customers are asking for products which have been processed by this line because it is a guarantee of total quality; and this has led us to have more opportunities in business for the future.”
The installation, which is divided into two sets of 16 lanes each fed by a Unitec Blueberry Vision 2 sorter, can apparently process around three million individual pieces of fruit per hour, an average that varies according to the product in question.
Cristóbal Picón Regidor, president of Coophuelva, said the company had opted to use Unitec’s technology to process and sort blueberries because of its record in terms of reliability.
“After having visited and seen all the existing ones in the market, this is the one which has offered us more reliability,” he explained. “You can bet on technologies with these features, they are 100 per cent reliable.”
Fernández also noted that certain issues relating to quality had been all but eradicated thanks to the new system.
“We have moved from the major quality problems [seen] until last season, when customers refused our fruit several times, to this year, during which we have had almost no complaint,” he said, adding that retail demand had increased notably.
“This is what, in a very short time – not more than three years, will enable us to pay back our investments.”
Coophuelva, or Sociedad Cooperativa Andaluza Costa De Huelva, is a producer organisation based in Lucena del Puerto, in the province of Huelva, itself part of the region of Andalusía.
It is part of Onubafruit, an association of Spanish soft fruit cooperatives and a major exporter to markets around the world.