July/August 2023

New packaging solution helps handle fragile cherries
By Melinda Waldrop, Managing Editor

Cherries are fragile fruits, prone to bruise and quick to soften. When Danfrugt Skælskør A/S, a large Scandinavian grower of cherries, needed a reliable, automated weighing and packing solution for the sensitive produce, it turned to Newtec.

Based in Denmark, Newtec manufactures high-quality weighing, packaging and sorting machinery for the fruit and vegetable industry, with more than 20,000 successful equipment installations in the last 45 years. Its collaboration with Danfrugt Skælskør addresses the challenges of cherries with gentle, accurate solutions.

Photo: File

“Absolutely, (cherries) do (require more care),” Christian Max Villadsen, head of sales at Newtec, told Produce Processing. ”And the season for cherries is very short, so it’s important that they are packed immediately after they are picked and handled with care so they are not bruised. That’s really important for the customers.”

Danfrugt Skælskør employs more than 200 people. It produces and distributes large quantities of cherries in 300- gram clamshell punnets — small boxes or square baskets used to gather, transport and sell fruit. Newtec’s automatic packing technology allows for attention to detail and client specifications while not compromising production rates, according to the company.

Cherries are immediately sent to cold storage after harvesting to maintain quality. Newtec’s solution includes an efficient portion collecting system, model 2CC, with tilted sides to allow for a soft landing on the cross conveyor. An additional, customized feature is the cherry kit, which handles cherries without bruising and prevents their long, green stems from getting stuck.

Newtec and Danfrugt Skælskør have collaborated on a fully automated packing solution to process cherries, which are prone to bruising and must be sent to cold storage immediately after harvesting. Photos courtesy of Newtec.

To prevent bruising, cherries are only exposed to low drops in Newtec’s water system. In addition, V-shaped weight heads offer extra protection against damage, while side guards and flights make sure that the cherries stay in the punnets.

The automated process minimizes human error while improving capacity, speed and accuracy, Villadsen said.

“When (cherries) are packed manually, I think they have a giveaway of 1 or 2% to 5%,” he said. “When we pack automatically, we are running with a giveaway of 0.2% or 0.4%. It’s a dramatic reduction.”

Automation also improves food safety, Villadsen said, and reduces water and electricity usage as production lines don’t need to run as long.

“In the old days, they had to run the food production line for like 12 hours,” he said. “They can do the same job in four hours now.”

Christian Max Villadsen, Newtec head of sales, stands in the company’s warehouse in Denmark with two Checkweighers, Model QC90-2, ready for shipment.

Automated solutions also address potential labor shortages. “There are not many people who want to work in the pack house anymore, so the pack houses need to get automated,” he said.

Reduction of manual labor and decreased giveaway drove Danfrugt Skælskør to a fully automatic process, Piper said. Newtec’s solution has allowed Danfrugt Skælskør to go from making five to 10 punnets per minute per person to making 40-45 punnets per minute per person.

“It is important to us that our handpicked, high-quality cherries are handled gently and yet efficiently on Newtec’s machines, enabling us to get our fresh cherries weighed, packed and delivered as quickly as possible to ensure a long product shelf life,” he said. “We have come from a semi-automatic solution with a lot of manual work, high giveaway and low capacity, and now we have an integrated automatic solution with high capacity and an average giveaway of less than 10g.”

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