High-tech hub fast-tracks premium potatoes from paddock to pot

Thomas Foods International Fresh Produce has installed a world-first Spectrim potato grading line as part of enhancements to its Penfield Gardens-based production facility.

The company’s CEO, Rod Knight, said the multi-million dollar Compac potato sorting and grading technology ensures a new level of accuracy and consistency for supermarket retailers and our export partners to deliver the most accurately graded potatoes into the hands of consumers.

“The fully-automated Compac sorting machine offers a maximum production capacity of 45 tonnes per hour and a streamlined sorting and packaging timeframe can see delivery to SA-based retail distribution centres on the very same day they are processed,” Mr Knight said.

“The clock is always ticking when it comes to bringing fresh food to market and offering much faster but more accurate processing allows us to sort, pack and deliver potatoes to Victoria and NSW overnight and as quick as two days to Queensland,” he said.

“That means consumers can enjoy fresher potatoes that have been assessed using technology that pays an appropriate level of respect to the ongoing efforts of farmers who have worked hard to grow amazing local-produce for people to enjoy.”

The upgraded facility was designed with the goals of fast delivery, consistency in quality, and food safety. It features a 12 lane Compac sorter with Spectrim grading technology, advanced packing equipment, and automated pallet weighing, packing and wrapping processes.  Spectrim, with nine cameras on each of the 12 lanes, ensures 100% inspection of each potato using multiple colour and infrared wavelengths.

The high-tech grading technology sees each potato scanned for even minor damage, such as early rots or bruises, that has been difficult for the industry to detect using previous technologies or even the naked eye. The camera technology makes a grade allocation based on the results so consumers can have confidence in the quality choices they make when shopping.

“More than 200 images of every potato are taken by Spectrim sensors and cameras, while superior lighting ensures even illumination power and consistency to better support the high-tech grading process. Cleanliness is also taken to a new level by having processing lines fitted with premium easy-to-clean stainless-steel features to maintain the very highest standards of hygiene,” Mr Knight said.

“The increased grading accuracy also has benefits for our supply chain by enabling us to expand our previous quality control reporting. This information can then be used to provide detailed defect and yield information to assist farm planning and agronomy,” he said.

“The fresh produce manufacturing industry is becoming increasingly sophisticated and consumers are far savvier and more discerning than ever, so it is important that as a market-leader Thomas Foods International Fresh Produce incorporates leading-edge technology and automation to deliver on those expectations and keep setting the gold standard in the industry.”

“Investing in this world-first technology and bringing it to our South Australian operations underpins our ongoing support of our own farming assets and local farmers. By which we are delivering high-quality produce to consumers, and this reflects our commitment to the community as an employer of choice and industry leader.”

Thomas Foods International Fresh Produce processes more than 60,000 tonnes of  potatoes per year, which are then provided to Coles, Woolworths and other major distribution centres across Australia, along with exporting to the world.