Unitec presents sorter to enhance packing process
October 21, 2016

000-technology750pxNew sorting technology installed in a number of Chilean packinghouses ensures more uniform sizing and consistent quality for blueberries, packers say.

Patented Blueberry Vision Unitec Technology can select and classify the quality of blueberries, said Luca Montanari, vice president of Unitec Italy and of Unitec USA, which has a headquarters in Lodi, Calif.

The technology rotates the berries 360 degrees, allowing a sophisticated camera to view 100% of the surface and detect all defects and analyze internal quality, Montanari said.

It can detect soft berries and even soft spots in the fruit, and it provides sizing accuracy that is far better than other technology, he said.

“This technology allows the packer to have uniform, consistent quality all the time,” Montanari said.

The sorter was first tested three years ago and now is in eight or nine packinghouses in Chile.

Unitec plans to introduce the technology to the U.S. next season, Montanari said.

The sorter can classify different grades of blueberries, as opposed to the old pass-fail system, and eliminates the need to re-run the berries through the line, said Ted Parker, sales manager for Unitec USA.

Blueberries can be graded according to specific parameters for specific retailers, he said.

Packinghouses can select and export only the blueberries that can handle the journey to their destinations.

“It’s a different concept,” Parker said.

The increased reliability can make the packinghouses more profitable and more competitive and eliminates potential claims over fruit that does not meet specified quality standards, according to the company.

Salinas, Calif.-based Naturipe Farms has installed the sorters in a couple of its Chilean packinghouses, with satisfactory results.

“They’re working very nicely,” said Mario Flores, director of blueberry product management. “We feel it’s an advancement in the packing, sorting technology.”

The sorter “does a pretty amazing job of ensuring that we get the best blueberries,” said Karen Brux, managing director of North America for the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, San Carlos, Calif.

It also reduces the need for labor at time when growers can’t find enough people to work the orchards and packinghouses, she said.

Unitec, which is known in the U.S. for its cherry sorting lines, makes the blueberry sorters in four-, eight- and 16-lane configurations.

They’re more compact and can be transported more easily than cherry sorters, Montanari said.

Photo by Unitec USA

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