A new vision for high quality onion sorting

Turnkey optical onion sorting solutions featuring a collaboration between UK vegetable handling equipment manufacturer Tong Engineering, and French machinery manufacturer MAF Agrobotic, are enabling leading vegetable producers to minimise labour requirements whilst increasing capacity and yield across onion processing operations.

The new onion optical sorting solutions from Tong features custom built infeed equipment, with a focus on effective topping of onions to ensure the best presentation of crop to the MAF sorter, for optimum sizing and defect sorting. For maximum flexibility, the Tong design includes both conventional fan topping alongside scroll topping equipment with bypass options. Once the onions have been received and topped, MAF’s flagship optical sorting machine, the Pomone, weight-grades crop as well as externally and internally sorting. The 10-lane model of the Pomone is capable of sorting over 30 tons of onions per hour at an average onion weight of 130 grams.

The proven MAF Pomone sorter features high-performance optical sorting technology. The G7 is MAF’s exclusive LED external optical sorting system, which uses cutting-edge imagery to detect any blemishes or defects to the onion’s skin finish. Its ability to identify blemishes on both white and red onions is a unique, unrivalled attribute of the MAF Pomone. In addition, highly efficient artificial intelligence algorithms can be used to allow the G7 technology to progressively learn defect specifications for even better categorisation. The G7 camera system rapidly captures multiple images of each onion, enabling extremely accurate and consistent external sorting. This, coupled with accurate size grading ensures near-perfect sizing of crop.

Even more impressive are the internal defect detection capabilities of the MAF-designed and patented IDD8 internal defect technology (previously IDD4). The IDD8 detection system effectively identifies internal defects within the onions including accurate detection of translucents, base rot, neck rot, fusarium rotten core and several other internal issues. Any internal defects within the load are easily recorded and directed to the correct outlet. The new and advanced IDD8 is very easy to use and is managed from a user-friendly interface connected to MAF Ophea software, which is seamlessly integrated with the customer’s ERP system for detailed data management.

In addition to this advanced MAF-exclusive internal and external optical sorting technology, the MAF Pomone also uses Insight 2, which is a halogen, near infra-red optical sorting system like those more commonly known and utilised throughout the industry.

“The unique MAF external, and particularly internal optical defect technology sets the MAF Pomone sorter apart from other optical sorters on the market, detecting defects that are not visible with standard optical vision,” explains Charlie Rich, Sales Manager at Tong Engineering. “Our long-standing relationship with MAF allows us to work in close partnership to design and manufacture completely bespoke onion optical sorting facilities that incorporate state-of-the-art handling technology to ensure the most advanced and automated processing, with minimal labour requirements.”

“Our advanced onion optical sorting systems significantly reduce the number of inspection staff required to process onions, so much so that in some instances our customers are able to process their onions without any inspection staff on the line. The MAF sorter significantly increases throughput potential and the yield of saleable onions. Customers are reporting that the new onion sorting systems from Tong and MAF are able to sort crop so effectively that they are able to save good onions that may have previously gone to waste. Crop is utilised much more efficiently than ever before by ensuring that the right crop is directed to the right outlet for sale.”

For more details on advanced vegetable optical sorting solutions from Tong click here.

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