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A breakthrough from GP Graders (Victoria) has enabled the cherry post harvest handling process to be separated into two stages: pre-sizing and packing.


Case Studies

GP Graders Lug Filler article for Eurofruit

A breakthrough from GP Graders (Victoria) has enabled the cherry post harvest handling process to be separated into two stages: pre-sizing and packing. This has led to a 70% time saving in grading and up to a 30% saving in packing staff costs.

Chilean fruit packing giant, Copefrut, have been using a similar system for apples which are pre-sized before cool storage, often for many months, then committed to pack as required. Copefrut wanted a pre-sizing system for cherries to optimize productivity of the line as a whole, particularly the packing end, so they approached the world’s largest manufacturer of cherry machinery, GP Graders to develop a line.

Where cherries are sized, sorted and packed at one time, the lower volume sizes are packed at one station and higher volume sizes over multiple packing stations. Where volume of a size is very low, staff at a packing station can be underutilized. However all sorting and packing staff can be fully utilized where one size of fruit is packed at a time as fruit can be spread evenly over all packing stations.

The pre-sizing lug filler consists of the delivery end of a cherry line. In this case cherry lugs are hand tipped into a tank. Cherries are cluster separated by GP Graders gentle cluster cutter before sizing. Sizing consists of cherries passing through stepped parallel sizing shafts. The stepped design allows greater accuracy. Sized fruit is kept separate in a water tank and is delivered by elevator to lugs waiting on a conveyor belt in a water tank. An ultrasonic depth gauge sensor indicates when the lug is full and an underwater vibration evens the mound of cherries in each lug before advancing.

Freshtrack Gateway, GP Graders and Freshtrack Software’s produce tracking software is used in conjunction with the lug filler and when each lug is filled a “luggage style” label is printed and affixed to ensure that all tracking information about the cherries is retained with the lug. This is used to reconcile deliveries with sized fruit and details can include grower, orchard lot, variety and size. An EAN compliant barcode is also printed and read at the beginning of the packing process which reconciles the sized lugs with the packed cartons, bags or clam shells. The system is fully EurepGap compliant.

Fruit in lugs remains in cool storage until it is packed to order or until a sufficient quantity of a size is available for packing. Lugs are hand tipped onto the beginning of the packing line and packed according to the required packing method including bags, clam shells or loose fill. Packing stations are equipped with bar-coding label printers and labels are affixed to cartons fed with data provided at the delivery end of the machine.

Packing staff no longer need to wait for a batch lot to clear after individual grower’s fruit has been packed. Fruit from each grower can be pre-sized and stored in lugs until sufficient fruit of a size is collected to pack. Freshtrack Gateway provides information about storage locations and volumes. This saves a great deal of down time. Copefrut now spend one shift pre-sizing and two shifts packing which is a much more efficient use of resources.

So successful have trials been that both Copefrut and Unifrutti have ordered pre-sizing lines for the 2006 season.

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