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Our Near Infra Red onion grading line not only optically sorts based on size and weight, but also identifies both external and internal rots among numerous other quality attributes. It utilises machine learning through a neural network to identify and sort multiple quality parameters allowing us to grade specifically to customer specifications.
Introducing the first Sammo/Longobardi Near Infra Red (NIR) 8 lane electronic cup grader in the UK. The grader incorporates technology that can automatically, consistently and effectively size grade, identify internal rotten onions, externally rotten onions, skinned onions and stained onions within an onion crop using non invasive, photo optic and 3D laser scanning techniques. It also utilises machine learning through complex neural networks to accurately identify multiple quality parameters enabling us to grade directly to customer specifications. The aim of this multi-million pound project was to help reduce food waste through the growing/grading/packing supply chain for greater sustainability in the future, improve efficiencies and improve final product quality.
Initial investigation, trials and validation of the NIR technology was conducted over a 3 year period
Business case made and presented to board of directors.
Once planning permission for new warehouse obtained, tender process instigated to determine more accurate project cost and timescales.
During the course of the project investigation it was found that we could be eligible for a Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), Rural Economy Grant (REG).
1st step for the REG grant was to submit an outline application by 30th April 2012
2nd step for the REG grant was to submit a full application.
Following a successful full application we had approval to start the project in July 2013.
Chosen partners approached.
Groundwork began on 10th October 2013 and Construction started.
Commercial operation of the grader started in August 2014
Introduced the neural network machine learning in June 2021
Since commencing production in August 2014, to date we have been able to recover and utilise 1,200 tonnes of UK onion crops that previously we would not be able to handle owing to levels of internal rot that were unacceptable for our customers. This has had a positive impact on our British growers by providing a more sustainable solution for being able to effectively combat internal rot in crops which until present has not been available to the industry, but also to ourselves as a business. Recovery of internally defective crops reduces the impact that can be caused to our procurement program. Every tonne that is lost needs to be replaced to ensure continuity in supply. The NIR technology is also helping us to offer a more consistent product to our customers and the end consumer which in the fresh produce category is not an easy thing to achieve. We have seen a substantial decline in customer complaints as a direct result of removing internal rots in our products.
This project is supported by the Rural Development Programme for England, for which DEFRA is the Managing Authority, part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas.