Spectrim: a case study in developing the best packhouse technology in the world.

Posted by Andrew McQueen on Apr 15, 2016 4:42:39 AM

Spectrim: a case study in developing the best packhouse technology in the world 

Six years ago, Compac set out on a journey towards an ambitious goal: to build the world’s most powerful grading platform. This would be a system allowing packers to not only eliminate manual sorting but also produce the most consistent product for market, drastically improving their bottom lines. 

Here's the inside story of the last two years and how Spectrim was developed with our industry partners, including an exclusive interview at the launch site Washington Fruit where Spectrim is helping them change the way they're operating and deliver more consistent fruit to market, all at a lower cost. 

If you’d like to see Spectrim in action, watch the 360 video of the first install site.

Early 2014 – Research

Whether you’re walking through a remote tomato packing shed in Australia, a scorching citrus packhouse in South Africa, or a mega apple facility in the US, some challenges transcend all of these differences. Many of our customers were identifying specific grading challenges which were increasing their packing costs, limiting their quality of pack, and holding back their brands.

When we began the research for Spectrim, we had no idea where it would take us. We didn’t know what the final product would look like and we weren’t sure if some of the fruit grading challenges were even solvable with current technology.

We started by partnering with a group of very intelligent people at Plant & Food Research who are the global leaders in variety development and post-harvest research. We wanted their help to determine what was needed to make a world leading grading system. This included the best lighting for consistent illumination, the best cameras for optimal imaging, the best wavelengths for defect detection, and the best electronics for efficient processing.

Late 2014 – Concept Development

Once we had an understanding of the different components we needed to include in the design, we started work on putting it all together. The key targets were high performance hardware, easy to use software, and an upgradeable platform.

‘The world’s most powerful’ didn’t just mean being the highest potential. The previous generation of technology across the industry is either high performing but difficult to operate, or easy to use but not flexible enough for fruit that changes every day, by the batch, or by the bin. One customer recently asked “What value does the software have if I need a PhD to run it?” Packhouse operating technology needs to be both functional for the end-user and powerful enough to get the job done; these two goals were the driving principles behind Spectrim.

Early 2015 – Test

Preliminary testing was conducted in our Development Center in early 2015 with encouraging results. The results revealed that we were going in the right direction, now we just needed to get it in the field.

Once we were ready for prototype testing, we transitioned from a research collaboration phase to a customer collaboration phase. Onsite testing began during the 2015 apple harvest in New Zealand. Our development partner for this project had the perfect site which enabled us to run the previous generation and new technology side-by-side on the same machine, allowing us to make direct comparisons between the two systems.

Late 2015 – Launch

Once we’d proven the concept, it was time to take Spectrim to market. We had already lined up a launch site for apples at Washington Fruit in Yakima, Washington. This machine was commissioned in late 2015 for the apple season, and went on to a brand new facility from Compac and our integration partner, Van Doren Sales.

This launch site was a great case study, as they have two identical packing lines: one with our previous technology, and one with the new Spectrim platform.

Mikey Hanks, the system operator at Washington Fruit, said that the new Spectrim software is “as easy as it could get”; he’s been able to get new staff fully trained and running the line efficiently and effectively in a matter of weeks, something unheard of in other packhouses.

In addition to the ease of use, we’re also thrilled that they’re able to run without any graders on the line. Click here to hear Mikey talk about how he's using Spectrim at Washington Fruit.

Looking Forward

Over the next three months we will be rolling out Spectrim to citrus, stonefruit, kiwifruit, avocado and tomato packhouses. The order book is very strong, so keep a look out for one in a packhouse near you. 

We began this journey amidst industry rumors that optical grading technology was almost as good as it would get, and that there would always be people in the packhouse.

It’s remarkable to think how far this technology and platform can go. Spectrim is about changing how the industry perceives packhouses and working towards our goal of a completely automated, 'lights out' packhouse. 

SpectrimTo find out more about spectrim click here or watch the video to see what Washington Fruit have to say about it.

Get an exclusive view of Spectrim in action with our latest video captured onsite at Washington Fruit. 

Hear firsthand how Spectrim is providing the fresh produce industry with technology that ensures maximum quality and efficiency.  


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Andrew McQueen

Written by Andrew McQueen

Product Manager: Inspection Systems

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