Italian cooperative Apofruit invested in a Compac InVision Total View cherry sorting platform in 2018 to enhance their ability to deliver consistent quality efficiently. The system was installed in time to save the 2019 cherry season, which got to a terrible start with heavy rains that compromised the quality of the crop. With the InVision Total View platform, Apofruit was able to recover good fruit even from the poor lots it received in the early weeks, resulting in a positive outcome for the cooperative, which closed the difficult season profitably and was able to support its farmer members.
Apofruit is an excellent example of the advantages that Compac’s automated sorting technologies can bring to packhouses, as explained by Roberto Ricci, Compac Regional Director EMENA:
“Compac has developed extensive experience in the world’s key cherry markets, including Washington State and California in the USA, Chile, New Zealand, Italy, Greece and Turkey. This enables us to develop innovative solutions tailored to meet the diverse needs of processing plants. As Apofruit’s experience shows, by transferring this experience to marketing focused companies we can help them guarantee the quality of their premium products and give them a competitive advantage.”
Italian cooperative Apofruit operates 11 fruit and vegetable processing plants and 15 facilities for produce collection and storage in the country. It works closely with its farmer members from across the national territory. In its more than 50 years of operation, it has maintained a steady growth aiming for a high degree of specialization in the country’s main fruit and vegetable products. It strives for continuous quality improvement and variety, innovating in its offering and processes, and providing tailored services to match the requirements the different retail channels. With this aim, in 2018 the cooperative invested in Compac’s InVision technology for their cherry processing line at their plant in Vignola and for sorting organic apricots, peaches, nectarines and citrus fruit at the plant in Scanzano Jonico. Both systems were supplied, installed and supported by Compac’s partner in Italy, ICOEL.
How to deliver consistent product from an inconsistent supply
Apofruit’s decision to purchase the Compac technology was driven by its mission to consistently deliver the highest quality produce to its customers, as well as two key challenges of the sector. The first one is meeting the very different requirements of the various types of Apofruit’s customers, which range from supermarket chains to smaller retailers. Flexibility and speed are key to success.
The second challenge derives from the fact that the bulk of the country’s cherry production comes from small farmers. The cooperative, which processes around 2,000 tonnes per year, receives a multitude of small lots of mixed quality. These are collected at its facilities where they undergo a water-cooling process, then shipped to the Vignola plant near Modena for grading, processing and packing. This fragmentation of the supply significantly adds to the complexity of managing the whole process from receiving, storage and processing, all the way to the final sale. It also means processing a supply of mixed quality to deliver a consistent product, which would be impossible without significant manual grading –resulting in additional labor costs.
World leading size, shape, color and blemish grading for cherries – even from poor fruit lots
The solution offered by Compac is a full Compac SFS 6L InVision 5-View line, later upgraded with the Total View inspection module. The InVision technology combines powerful imaging, controlled lighting and cherry rotation to enable accurate and consistent grading for size, shape, color and blemishes. This performance is taken further with the Total View module, which provides 7 views of the cherry and detects stem and nose defects such as rain cracks and mildew, while keeping current production speeds.
The InVision Total View platform delivers high accuracy of defect grading, and particularly stands out for its ability to grade nose cracks caused by rain, run bad lots faster and recover good fruit from these lots. That is how Compac’s system saved the season for Apofruit and its members, as Mr. Claudio Magnani, Apofruit Technical Director explains:
“The difficulties of this year’s cherry season were very obvious to everyone, and there is no doubt that Compac’s InVision technology contributed to mitigating the dramatic consequences by enabling us to process fruit lots that we would never have been able to manage with traditional methods. If I had to sum up the advantages of this platform in one sentence, I would say it is the constant high quality it delivers that would be difficult if not impossible to achieve with the human eye.”
Bruno Stravato, General Manager ICOEL, adds: “When our clients have to deal with fruit of low quality, with many defects, Compac’s InVision Total View platform enables them to work at their usual production speed while maintaining their high product quality levels. This is impossible with traditional methods, because the low quality of the fruit would require them to reduce the processing speed to enable their personnel to select the fruit manually.”
Compac’s forward-looking, tailored approach: a key deciding factor
The unique features of the InVision Total View platform are a perfect match for Apofruit’s requirements, but there was another key factor that led them to choose Compac:
“The company strategy and its commitment to investing in research, looking towards the future, was a deciding element for us,” explains Magnani. The technical expertise and personalized approach are also very important: “we really appreciate the support we are receiving from Compac and ICOEL with their technical, mechanical and IT expertise. We have enjoyed from the start an excellent relationship with them, with highly professional exchanges throughout.”
“We have listened to Apofruit, examined the technical data they provided and studied their requirements to design dedicated solutions, with suggestions of the various options available and new ideas we have developed from our experience in other markets. We have worked with them and supported the project from the beginning to completion. Now that the system is up and running, we remain at their side, providing technical and service support full time throughout the season.”