Fruit Harvesting - Benefits

Our transport tubes provide for the rapid, gentle, linear movement of fruit and other agricultural products in the field.

Historically, the specialty crop industry has heavily relied on manual labor to harvest and pack its crops. As such, increased labor costs, immigration issues and limited technology have provided the impetus for development of automated systems that can dramatically improve worker productivity and efficiency.

Additionally, the need to trace food to its source, improve quality and increase shelf life requires new processes and supporting technologies. This is a large, diverse and labor intensive market that is ripe for automation and more efficient ways to move commodities from the orchard to the consumer.

See the Comparative Feature Chart above to compare the Whooshh enabled PickerTECH Mobile Harvest System, against the alternatives.

SmarTOUCH Bin Filler

The packing house industry has been seeking an improved dry bin filler solution for many years and a number of different products have been delivered to the market. However, feedback continues to suggest that the current generation of dry bin filler solutions, referred to as roto-fillers, is deficient in both handling characteristics (i.e., too much fruit damage) and throughput (i.e., too few bins filled per hour). The roto-filler performance has typically relegated dry bin fillers for use with processor apples while fresh market fruit has had to rely on "wet" bin filling processes or hand labor.

GentleFiller helps bridge this well-known gap by delivering bin filling speed and fruit handling performance that is superior to existing alternatives. With this type of performance, GentleFiller can be used for more fresh market applications while also enabling the deployment of more dry (vs. wet) handling processes. In fact, GentleFiller can help enable a "dry" pre-size capability that is crucial to the deployment of "hybrid" pre-size/commit-to-pack lines. To facilitate these new applications/processes, we have designed the solution to improve bin filling speed by over 50% and to reduce shrinkage significantly when compared to existing technology. For apples, this means up to 23 bins per hour of "target" fruit with less than 1% damage - even for sensitive varieties.

GentleFiller achieves these results by leveraging a design that operates much differently than currently available rotary bin fill products. The GentleFiller solution utilizes a vertical filling head that gently layers the fruit into the bin while existing solutions rely on a rotary filling process. In addition to decreasing fruit damage, GentleFiller enables higher bin filling speeds and better edge to edge filling of the bin. GentleFiller minimizes fruit damage by decreasing individual fruit arrival speed and alleviating the trauma caused by "rolling" fruit. Even on the most sensitive fruit, bruise assessments have shown very good results compared with other bin filler mechanisms currently utilized in packing houses.


Whooshh Transport

The Whooshh transport tube relies on a unique design and pressure differentials to gently and rapidly move fruit of various shapes and sizes from point A to point B (e.g., from a sizer drop to a remote bag or bin filler). With no transitions or hard corners, the Whooshh tube's handling characteristics are far superior to traditional conveyors and even the most sensitive fruit can be transported with much less bruising.

Whooshh's characteristics (i.e., flexible, lightweight, vertical transport capabilities, etc.) provide the packing plant with increased design and layout flexibility. For example, vertical fruit transport enables new handling processes that dramatically improve space utilization. This increased utilization provides an opportunity to decrease the packing house footprint thus saving significant capital investment and overhead. Whooshh tubes also provide a more efficient way to transport fruit to baggers, bin fillers, and other devices that need not be adjacent to the main packing line.

This type of layout better utilizes the packing house floor, reduces blockage caused by "fixed" conveyors, and decreases pedestrian/forklift conflict. Transport tubes can also be located near sorting/packing tables so mis-routed fruit is placed in the tube and reinserted onto the packing line.

Operational performance and flexibility are also greatly enhanced. Adding incremental fruit transport "routes" or changing existing routes to dynamically address daily orders. For example, a transport tube can be added to move fruit from a sizer drop to a bagger and then quickly switched from the bagger to a bin filler.

"Dry" Pre-Sort Enabled

A traditional commit-to-pack line enhanced with a "dry" pre-sort capability provides many of the benefits of a traditional "wet" pre-size line without the capital and operating expense associated with a stand-alone line. Additionally, a hybrid dry pre-sort/commit-to-pack line does not use water for fruit transport or bin filling, which eliminates the issues associated with water related fruit damage and water disposal.

In order to create an effective hybrid solution, new products and processes are required. A dry bin filler that is faster and causes much less fruit damage than existing products is a must. Another requirement is a cost effective grading and sorting solution that can identify defects, remove "culls" and sort the remaining fruit based on size, color or other attributes.

By combining its electronic sorting and dry bin filling technologies, SmarTouch can offer a dry pre-sort solution that can be added to the "front end" of a commit-to-pack line between the wet bin dumper and washing and waxing equipment. The TrueSort grading and sorting solution would identify culls, slicers and "non-target" fruit which would be re-binned using the GentleFiller solution. Target fruit would proceed through the commit-to-pack line as normal.