Quality and traceability - two critical requirements that must be met by packaged potato producers - are under attack due to market disruption due to the pandemic COVID-19. The quarantine forced people to cook more at home, which is why the demand for fresh potatoes has increased significantly. As a result, manufacturers have been tempted to increase the load on sorting lines or set higher speeds on conveyor belts - but this makes quality control difficult.
Product quality is an essential precondition for ensuring food safety for consumers, protecting manufacturers' reputation and meeting customer requirements. In addition, product quality also affects profitability, sometimes as much as packaging percentage, efficient sorting of rejected raw materials, or changes in supply and demand.
Food safety is paramount. The risk is always present - in a batch of freshly harvested potatoes, weeds are often found: field mice, plastic bottles, stones, wood, sticks, stems ... They must be detected and rejected at the stage of preliminary sorting by the farmer or packer before the raw materials are fed to the packaging line. This operation must also be performed by sorters on the line itself. This may seem surprising to some, but on some lines, potato sorting is still done manually, although machinery able to recognize what the human eye will not notice. In addition, one equipment is better able than the other to cope with the rejection of weeds and potato tubers with defects.
While safety is a binary concept - a product is either safe or not - quality can have several categories. The potatoes that reach the very end of the line must meet certain requirements for appearance and size, but the requirements themselves may vary. Only the most sophisticated optical technologies Sorts allow you to recognize the necessary attributes and quickly switch from one product to another with minimal downtime.
What about profitability? Of course, high quality products can provide access to more marginal markets, but some profit can also be made from re-sorting rejected potatoes and selling them as lower grade products. This challenge also requires advanced technology. Sorting machines are able not only to recognize and reject tubers that do not meet certain criteria, but also to ensure sorting of rejected raw materials of a lower grade (obtaining grade II potatoes from the volume of raw materials initially rejected on the line for grade I).
In such a situation, it comes to the fore traceability, which plays an increasingly important role in ensuring food safety and increasing market demand for them. If a defective product somehow reaches outlets or consumers, it is traceability that allows you to quickly find out about its origin and distribution channels, as well as quickly remove it from outlets. Fortunately, this is rarely necessary, but there are other valuable benefits to traceability.
Traceability can give consumers the information about the origin of a product that they are most interested in. Market research has found that most consumers are willing to pay more for food with honest information. For packaged potato growers, traceability is an integral part of the process, which also increases efficiency and profitability and drives digital transformation - a trend that has swept literally every industry. Adapting existing businesses to new digital practices — through automation, interconnection, machine learning, and real-time data acquisition — can provide data that has the potential to be of great practical value. Modern sorting technologies open up new horizons and enable data to be used to improve operational efficiency, generate added value and create new revenue streams.
All this sounds like a description of the distant future, but the future is coming right now. And its advance has been accelerated by the challenges faced by businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic.
About Us TOMRA Food
Company TOMRA Food is engaged in the development and manufacture of sensor sorting equipment and integrated post-harvest technology for the food industry. Our solutions are based on the world's most advanced quality control, sorting, cleaning and process analysis technologies. More than 8000 of our machines are installed in different countries in the factories for the production, packaging and processing of food: fruits, nuts, vegetables, potatoes, grains and seeds, dried fruits, meat and seafood. The mission of the company is to provide customers with smart and practical technological solutions that increase their investment efficiency, increase productivity and ensure food safety. TOMRA Food has its own innovation centers, regional offices and production sites in the USA, Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, Australia.
TOMRA Food Included in the group of companies TOMRAfounded in 1972. The pioneering activity of the company began with the design, production and sale of vending machines for the collection of used beverage containers. To date TOMRA offers high-tech solutions that contribute to the development of a circular economy, which includes the use of advanced collection and sorting systems. These solutions ensure that resource use is recovered and waste is minimized in the food, mining and recycling industries.
At the moment, about 100 technological solutions TOMRA used by customers in more than 80 markets. In 2019, the company's total revenue was approximately NOK 9,3 billion. The group employs approximately 4500 international employees and is listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange (OSE: TOM). Additional information about the company TOMRA can be found on the site www.tomra.com.