Food Engineering

Sorter A Real Peach for Del Monte

March 28, 2003
Del Monte Foods' canning operation in Kingsburg, CA, reports strong success since installing vision-sorting technology on its diced peach line. "We historically relied on manual labor to sort blemished and defective fruit," says Edwin Matsumoto, plant production superintendent. "New products such as single-serve peach cups and food service items demand consistent, high quality and generate tremendous volume increases in this facility," he said. Del Monte plant managers found their solution with a Tegra® vision sorter from Key Technology, during Pack Expo '97.

Del Monte's 100,000 sq.-ft. Kingsburg plant specializes in canning diced cling peaches--processing an average of six tons per hour at peak harvest. The plant runs a 1,200 person, three-shift operation putting out 80,000 tons of peaches during the short season.

Matsumoto and his team brought in a Tegra 7775 full-color vision sorter to help keep up with production, while improving quality and consistency.

Tegra gently propels a layer of food product through the air and onto a receiving belt. As product leaves the infeed conveyor, it is thoroughly inspected on all sides using multiple high-resolution cameras. The machine classifies features on each piece by color, size, and shape. Key's IntelliSort™ enables high precision color sorting on thousands of pieces per second.

Tegra's unique C-Belt® catenary conveyor employs centrifugal force to pull product onto a stainless-steel mesh belt and keep it level for product inspection even at conveyor speeds up to 600 ft. per minute.

Del Monte programmed its Tegra to detect dark blemishes, pits and unripe (green) pieces, then eject them from line flow using precise air jets positioned six millimeters apart. When the cameras detect a defect, a signal is sent to the appropriate jet to blast the piece off the line.

"The Tegra sorter never takes a break," says Matsumoto. "Parameters are fully adjustable, and performance is continuous." Because the Tegra works faster than humans, and is more reliable, much less blemished fruit is canned, ensuring that only premium product reaches consumers.

"While we have only reduced our total employee count by few, we increased output by consolidating production from other plants and redistributed employees to other areas.