Global Pac Technologies has unveiled the Aporo II robotic produce packaging machine.
The solution builds on the original Aporo I Produce Packer, developed in 2018 to automate one of the most labour-intensive tasks in the packhouse.
The latest model can accommodate twice the throughput of its predecessor, packing 240 pieces of fruit per minute, saving between two and four labour units per double packing belt.
“Aporo II can be retrofitted across two packing belts instead of one, so it has effectively doubled the throughput and the labour saving that Aporo I could deliver,” explained Cameron McInness, director of Jenkins Group – a New Zealand-based company which co-founded Global Pac Technologies with US-based Van Doren Sales.
McInness said Aporo II’s dual robotic heads are more consistent and reliable than human packers.
The technology is now being used in France, the UK, Sweden, Belgium, the US, Australia and New Zealand.
“We have been rolling out this new machine with some key customers globally and the results have been dramatic,” McInness said.
“One of our Australian customers built a new packhouse and installed three of our Aporo II’s. That increased their packhouse production by 30-40 per cent and reduced their labour by 50 per cent.
“Automating the process of placing fruit into trays then allows post-harvest operators to redeploy their scarce labour resources to areas where they can add more value.”
The Aporo machines are primarily being used to pack apples, along with stonefruit varieties like peaches and nectarines.
Work is underway to extend their use to other fruit categories in the near future.
“What’s unique about Aporo I and Aporo II is they are designed for really simple autonomous packing,” McInness said. “The machine is very intelligent. It looks at the fruit, orientates the fruit and doesn’t need to be told what type of trays you’re using – it just looks and finds the pockets. It’s really powerful technology.
“Its internal vision system or ‘neural network’ is continuously learning to adapt to different fruit varieties and improve performance over time. It features automatic tray pocket recognition for any tray type and the touch screen interface is very intuitive and easy to use. Not only will it orientate and place fruit the right way on the tray, you can also ask it to find the best colour on the apple and spin that side up. It’s very clever.”
The Aporo I and AporoII packers have been developed by New Zealand agritech business Robotics Plus. Global Pac Technologies was formed as a joint venture to sell the technology to the global market.
“We are the market leaders in this space and our customers are having real success,” McInness said. “The global apple market is worth approximately US$80bn and automation is key to overcoming the worldwide labour shortage that all post-harvest operators are experiencing.
“The beauty of Aporo I and Aporo II is they can be installed on both new and existing packing lines, making this technology accessible to everyone.”