June 25, 2020

Packaged salad producer RAGO upgrades sorting lines to improve food safety

RAGO Group is one of the leading Italian producers of washed, packaged and ready-to-eat (fourth range) salad, and the second biggest exporter of rocket in Europe.

On the market since 1892 and now run by the founding family’s fifth generation, RAGO’s strengths lay in its sustainability and innovation. Every single process in the company is monitored and meets stringent quality parameters – from the production on its 500 acres through to packaging and shipment of the product.

At RAGO’s, innovation goes hand in hand with continuous investment in research and development, which takes up 4% of the company’s turnover. This belief in innovation and technology was at the root of the company’s decision to purchase five TOMRA Food sorting machines, which were delivered in December 2019.

TOMRA equipment sorting leafy greens at Rago in Italy. Photo: TOMRA Food

“In Italy, the salad sector has already reached a good level of automation, but a focus on food safety from increasingly demanding customers continues to grow,” said Gianluca Coloretti, Area Sales Manager Italy, TOMRA Food. “As a consequence, producers and packagers are looking for more and more sophisticated technologies to avoid complaints or damage to their image, which they can’t afford. Our sorting machines with combined laser/camera technology have set a new standard in food safety in this type of product. That’s why we perfectly meet RAGO’s needs.”

The five new TOMRA sorting machines have been positioned on the line dedicated to salad preparation, washing and drying. RAGO takes the greatest precautions to ensure the visual and sensory qualities of its ready-to-eat products, and eliminate all foreign bodies such as insects, or plastic and wood fragments that may have come from the fields. RAGO’s battle against foreign bodies begins in the fields, where it takes a host of precautions and processes to mitigate the issue. From the field, the products go to the processing and packaging house where the TOMRA machines take over and remove any remaining foreign bodies.

Mariano Rago explained: “When a large mass of leaves is processed, the danger can lay hidden among them. This is where the sorter plays an important role, ensuring continuous visual control using the most sophisticated technology.”

The TOMRA sorting machines have been in operation for several months, closely monitored by Gaetano Rago, who is in charge of technological innovation at RAGO, and the company is satisfied with the results: “From the controls, we carry out daily, we have been able to appreciate TOMRA’s contribution to our achieving the highest quality of the finished product, with no residues or foreign bodies — all to the benefit of our brand and our customers.”

“Quality control is RAGO’s signature benefit,” said Gaetano Rago. “We cannot afford any exceptions. For this reason, all our products are controlled by a specialized team of agronomists and food technologists to ensure only guaranteed and certified food goes to the shelves and tables. TOMRA’s sorting technology completes a control chain that leads to excellent results.”

Optical sorting technology reduces waste and delivers higher yields

In addition to the quality of the finished product, another central element in RAGO’s philosophy is the great attention to eco-sustainability. The company’s environmental impact is already minimal and is further reduced by a green park covering about 15,000 m² to return oxygen to the atmosphere and balance the CO2 produced by the company.

The company has set itself the challenge of making the full production process eco-sustainable through constant and numerous investments — in place and planned for the future — with the ultimate goal of the intelligent exploitation of resources: water, land and solar energy.

The decision to use TOMRA sorting machines is part of RAGO’s initiatives aimed at ensuring a “green” approach. Under this point of view, the issue of false rejects is particularly relevant: now, thanks to the optical and laser selection accuracy of TOMRA’s technology, false rejects are reduced to a minimum, thus optimizing product yields and reducing waste. With a view to the increasing global food requirements (it is estimated that to feed the population, which is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, we will have to produce 70% more food), decreasing what FAO defines as food loss (the loss of food that occurs in the early stages of production, processing and transport) becomes fundamental.

Coloretti concluded: “It is worrying to think that the processing industry loses between 35% and 50% of all the food it processes. Clearly, this is unsustainable. With the same raw material, by using TOMRA’s technologies, we will be able to better exploit the resources available on our planet.”

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