By carolemetcalfe

The Caretaker’s latest optical sorting option proves top-grade

Dirty Potato Optical Sorting Tong Caretaker vegetable potato grader

Since Tong Engineering launched the option of integrated optical sorting within its market leading grading machine, the Caretaker, back in 2016, the inclusion of advanced optical sorting on dirty grading systems has proved to be a very welcome addition.

Introduced to offer potato and vegetable growers and processors automated optical sorting of dirty crop, Tong has been offering the option within its Caretaker mobile grader and static grading lines, as an alternative to traditional manual inspection facilities. The optical sorter for dirty crop can also be specified as a stand-alone unit or within a complete intake grading line, to replace manual removal of stones and clod from crop.

And now, after almost two years in daily action sorting up to 40 tons of potatoes per hour, the optical sorter has proved itself to be invaluable. “One of our most recent Caretaker installations that features the optical sorting system, is for a large potato grower and processor in France, where the integrated optical sorter is working very well on dirty crop,” explains Charlie Rich, Export Sales Manager at Tong Engineering. “The addition of the optical sorter, which is built upon the Caretaker’s heavy duty chassis, has meant that they are now achieving very consistent and reliable removal of debris from crop without any manual inspection, and at high capacities.”

When specified as an option on the Tong Caretaker potato grader, the optical sorting unit is fitted in place of a standard inspection table, working very accurately on unwashed crop, separating foreign material from crop. Using the latest camera technology, the optical sorter scans all items whilst in-flight to identify and separate crop from clod, stones and foreign objects including wood, plastic, glass, bone, rubber, metal and more. The machine offers effective separation for a wide range of potato varieties, including main, seed and processing crop.

“Growers and packers are continuously looking to increase the efficiency and productivity of their handling systems, with a definite focus across the industry on labour and its associated costs,” says Charlie. “Whilst we are offering carrot and potato processors advanced optical sorting of washed crop with the increasingly popular Visar optical sorter, the removal of stones and clod from dirty crop still remains a somewhat manual process for most. This new optical sorting option now offers growers and fresh pack companies a fully automated system for consistent removal of stones and clod from unprocessed crop, which essentially removes the need for inspection staff at this stage in the process.”

“The new optical system, coupled with our latest Pro-Series Auto-Touch HMI control system, is bringing next generation automation to the intake crop handling process, for increased productivity and consistency whilst significantly reducing labour requirements,” added Charlie.