09 Dec Strawberry fields are forever
Christmas and summer are synonymous with Strawberries and for a large strawberry company, the packing process has just been made much easier in their words “almost flawless”.
Strawberry Fields was looking to eliminate double handling of their strawberries as they are sorted, graded and packed.
It all begins when the strawberries arrive from the fields in containers within plastic crates and are then unloaded onto a roller bed and moved manually along the packing line.
However this current process was inefficient and also provided a potential hygiene risk.
EQM designed a new process that would take away the top rollers to be replaced with a N-Track belt conveyor which enabled the strawberries to remain in the plastic crate rather than be unpacked.
The packing team then can easily take the containers directly out of the plastic crates and grade the fruit into first and seconds.
“We did concept 3D CAD model drawings using our already designed N Track conveyor and supplied it as a kitset that they could easily mount to the existing conveyor.
We also fitted the conveyor with a special belting which enabled the crates to easily slip on the the belt and accumulate.
The drive was also strengthened by lagging the drive drum with special rubber.
A further innovation that has worked exceptionally well is adding a hole into the sorting tables that sends the reject fruit down a chute onto a conveyor. This process grade fruit is then conveyed back to the initial loading point where it can be packaged for processors.
Another innovation is a “trash collector” on the sides of the overhead crate infeed conveyor. The collector is similar to roof guttering and is attached to the side of the conveyor so any materials picked up in the field by the crates is collected and stopped from going further with the strawberries.
The owners are thrilled with the fit-for-purpose solution saying that it is “working exceptionally well”.
Further innovtions are planned to take efficiencies to even higher levels, so “Strawberry fields are forever” improving as they continue to automate their packhouse.