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High-tech defect detection

Optical sorting system identifies soft, damaged andmiscoloured fruit before it reaches human sorters.

By Susan McIver C

herry growersKeith and Jan Carlson have streamlined their operationswith the installation of an optical defect

sorting linemade to their specifications. The Carlsons own Carcajou Fruit Co. Ltd.

in Summerland and sell their fruit under the SweetDiamond box label. Theirmachinewasmade byMAF

Industries in California, part of the worldwideMAF-RODAGroup,which specializes in the design andmanufacture of packinghousemachinery. MAF oftenworkswith growers in


Keith Carlson beside the four lanes that transport hydro-cooled cherries individually to a camera box, where defects on and under the skin are detected. Fruit size and colour also are recorded.

designing equipment tomeet their individual needs. “I specified that Iwanted a dry packing line andMAFmade

it,”Keith said. According toKeith, dry lines are used in Europe but are

uncommon inNorth America. “It’s important tominimizemoisturewhich can cause all

sorts of problems once the cherries are packed into boxes,” Jan said. ToKeith’s knowledge their systemis the first optical defect

sorting linemachine incorporating a dry packing line sold by MAF on this continent. He knows of three other optical defect sorting lines for

cherriesmade by othermanufacturers in B.C., one in Creston and two inKelowna. The B.C. Tree Fruits Co-operative inOliver has an optical

defect systemfor applesmade byMAF, according to the company’s service technician, TomBrown. Sorting and packing of cherries at Carcajou beginswith

weighing each lug and scanning its bar codewhich assigns every pound of fruit fromthe field to its picker. Keithwrote the original software in 2004 that bar codes

fruit buckets, boxes and bins. After further development the software systemis nowsold

under the trade name SmartHort. The lugs are sent for cleaningwhile the cherries go into cold

water and through a separatorwith the goal of ensuring individual cherries eachwith its own stem. “Observers are present tomake sure they are separated,”

Carlson said. Undersized and trash cherries are dropped out of the line. Acceptable cherries are hydro-cooled and dropped onto the

newoptical defect sorting line in the cold packing room. Belted rollers on four lanes straighten the cherries and transport theminto the camera box equippedwith two types


of cameras. Infrared cameras detect defects on and under the skinwhile

blue-green-red cameras record fruit size and skin colour. The roller belt turns the cherrieswhile they are in the

camera box so photographs can be taken fromdifferent perspectives. The programmable controller, a computer, records

information obtained fromthe photographs. Fromthe camera box cherries go onto laneswith rubber

rollers and air-activated solenoids. The computer activates the air solenoids to allowrelease of

defect-free and larger-sized cherries onto sorting lanes equippedwith cull flumes. “Themachine picks up 60 to 70 percent of the damaged

cherries,”Keith said. Workers do the final sorting of the cherries into those

destined for export and those to be sold for domestic consumption. The cherries are boxed and transported by conveyer belt

into the cold roomwhere they are scanned and stored until pick-up. The dry packing line designed byKeith is the section from

where the cherries leave the camera box until they are boxed. “The newmachine identifies soft, damaged andmiscoloured

fruit before it reaches human sorters and the optical feature increases successful selection of premiumsized cherries. It reduces our labour force in the packinghouse up to 50 percent.” This year the Carlsons hired 65 employees: 25 pickers and

30 in the packinghouse. Bart Fieten is on a year’swork visa fromTheNetherlands to

work at Carcajou and learn the finer points of the cherry industry fromthe Carlsons. “Themarket demands accurate sizing,” Jan said.

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Fall 2013

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