Fluorescence-sensing laser sorter ensures product quality and food safety

SEPTEMBER 9, 2008--Pure Pacific Organics, a processor of organic fresh-cut products such as baby spinach and spring mix, was the first in the world to install Optyx with FluoRaptor, the new fluorescence-sensing laser sorter from inspection, imaging, and processing system provider Key Technology.

Sep 9th, 2008

SEPTEMBER 9, 2008--Pure Pacific Organics, a processor of organic fresh-cut products such as baby spinach and spring mix, was the first in the world to install Optyx with FluoRaptor, the new fluorescence-sensing laser sorter from inspection, imaging, and processing system provider Key Technology (Walla Walla, WA, USA; www.key.net). Using a combination of color cameras and laser technology, Optyx with FluoRaptor detects and removes defects, extraneous vegetable matter (EVM), and foreign material (FM) based on differing levels of chlorophyll as well as color, size, and shape.

"At Pure Pacific, we do everything we can to be sure our product is safe," says Tom Russell, president and CEO of Pure Pacific Organics. "When we went looking for an automated inspection system, removing foreign material was our number one goal. Removing defects was also important."

The system identifies differences in the fluorescent properties of objects to remove insects, animal parts, rocks, sticks, cardboard, glass, plastic, and metal, even if the objects are the same color as the product. The sorter can also detect and remove leaves from trees, even when the color, texture, and shape are similar to the good product.

"We considered sorters from a number of different manufacturers," notes David Black, COO at Pure Pacific Organics. "FluoRaptor goes after foreign material better than anything else we found. We also liked its on-belt inspection more than the free-fall systems because gentle handling reduces mechanical damage to the tender leaf, which is critical to our final product quality."

Pure Pacific selected Key's Optyx 6786 with FluoRaptor, which features a 48-in. (1220-mm) wide scan area that enables it to sort up to 6500 lb (3 metric tons) of product per hour. One top-mounted laser, two top-mounted Vis/IR cameras, and two bottom-mounted Vis/IR cameras view the product both top and bottom.

"Removing foreign material is our primary objective but FluoRaptor finds a lot of defects, too, like decayed leaves that a tractor ran over or product with windburn, dead spots, or holes from a bug bite," says Russell. "This sorter finds things that people miss. Removing these defects improves the shelf life and the quality of our finished product."

Key can configure the system to sort fresh-cut products as well as a variety of fresh and frozen vegetables and potato products. The system at Pure Pacific Organics is designed specifically for tender leaf products with product handling and sanitation features that keep the system free of product build-up during operation to maximize defect and foreign material removal while minimizing yield loss and easing sanitation.

Pure Pacific sorts 24 different blends and component products, each with its own preprogrammed setting, which can be recalled in seconds via the touchscreen control panel. The icon-based user interface is available in multiple languages. The user interface can reside locally on the sorter and can be accessed remotely via network or Internet.

"Our cold, wet environment can be challenging but FluoRaptor handles it well," concludes Black. "We're experiencing virtually 100 percent product efficiency with the sorter. We've reduced our labor costs and maintained our throughput. But most importantly, we've improved our product quality and food safety."

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