May/June 2022

Chatting with TOMRA CEO Tove Andersen; company expands 5C sorter to frozen

In August 2021, Tove Andersen became the CEO of TOMRA, a global supplier of recycling, mining and food production equipment.

With a history with crop production and nutrient supplier Yara, the TOMRA Food arm of the operation is near and dear to Andersen’s heart. The company has postharvest, sorting and processing equipment designed for potatoes and other fruit and vegetables

Could you share a little about your background?

Growing up I wanted to become a research scientist. After my studies (Andersen has a master’s in mathematics and physics), I worked as a researcher for three years. However, I didn’t really have the patience of a scientist, so I (got an) MBA and moved into business. I have spent most of my professional life at Yara International, a global leader in crop nutrition. So, the agricultural sector and food industry are very familiar to me. At Yara, I had many different roles in different locations, including Sweden, UK, Belgium and Norway. This has given me broad international experience.

What attracted you to TOMRA?

It’s a combination of being a purpose-led company and a global technology leader. It’s always been important to me to do something meaningful with my life. TOMRA is well positioned to make a true difference within resource management and the circular economy. The way we use resources today is not sustainable. We need to rethink how we obtain, use and reuse the planet’s precious resources.

What do you think the biggest challenges are for women to advance into leadership roles?

I have been fortunate to have (male) leaders encouraging and supporting me throughout my career. However, there are still many who do not get that same support, and discrimination still exists. It’s important that we acknowledge this — that still in many regions and sectors we don’t have equal opportunities, whether that’s for gender, color or other factors. Companies need to take a proactive role in driving diversity, equality, and inclusion. The most successful companies in the future will be the companies that value diversity. They will attract the best talents and keep them, and they will develop the most innovative solutions. We are not where we want to be on diversity at TOMRA, but we will continue to focus on this as an essential part of our strategy going forward.

Any advice for young people?

Find a job you really like; you will never excel in something you don’t enjoy, and you need to excel if you are to progress in your career. You need to deliver above expectations, so go beyond what is required. Don’t be afraid to be ambitious. I believe companies like TOMRA hold the key to solve the global challenges of climate change, food security and pollution. We need ambitious leaders at all levels in these companies, leaders who want to make a difference.

What do you find fulfilling about your job?

I feel very fortunate to be the CEO of a company with 4,600 competent and passionate employees. We have the ambition to lead the resource revolution, we want to make a positive difference for our customers and by that also for the world we live in. When I meet customers who talk about our solutions, how they have improved their operations and businesses, I feel very proud. That’s why we exist — to make our customers more profitable and more sustainable.

What do you enjoy doing away from work?

Spending time with my family. I’m married with two children, ages 18 and 20. In addition, I like the outdoors, hiking in the mountains and running. I love to travel and explore new places.

TOMRA expands 5C sorter for frozen vegetables

In 2020, TOMRA Food launched its 5C series sorter designed specifically for dried fruit and nuts. Now, that technology is available for frozen vegetables.

TOMRA unveiled its 5C premium sorting machine at Fruit Logistica in Berlin in April. It features the company’s unique biometric identification technology.

TOMRA’s 5C has been expanded to include frozen produce. Photo: TOMRA Food

By locating the TOMRA 5C on the processing line between the individual quick freezing (IQF) tunnel and the packing station, final checks for food safety and product quality can be made with unrivaled accuracy. As the frozen product reaches the end of the line for bagging, the sorter recognizes and removes any remaining foreign material, extraneous vegetable matter (EVM), and hard-to-detect product defects, such as stems and stalks with green beans and nightshade with peas. These detection capabilities significantly reduce the risks of consumer complaints or product recalls — already a vital requirement, and one that is harder to meet with organically grown fruit and vegetables, which typically get delivered to processing lines containing more unwanted materials such as insects, rodents and EVM.

Compared to TOMRA’s predecessor — the Nimbus BSI — the new 5C machine further enhances sorting efficiency and yields, is easier to keep running and has a more hygienic design, which reduces cleaning time by about 35% compared to the Nimbus. The 5C also has a 5-10% greater capacity than the Nimbus. 

The TOMRA 5C was first introduced in 2020 to sort dried fruit and nuts but was designed from the outset for many different applications, including IQF vegetables and fruit. This machine is now being made available for IQF lines following tests with one major IQF vegetables processor in the U.S. and another in Europe. Validation was conducted over an intensive six-week period, with the machines working for two or more shifts per day and sorting four to five tons of product every hour. Sorting performance was assessed with more than 20 different types of vegetables: mono and mixed. 

The trials showed consistently excellent results — even with vegetables that are traditionally difficult to sort, such as white cauliflower, and even when looking for foreign materials that are difficult to detect, such as nightshade mixed in with peas. 

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