Key Technology, a member of the Duravant family of operating companies, introduces a new automated grading system for fresh green beans. This turnkey solution automatically removes defective green beans and foreign material (FM), while also separating green beans in clusters or with attached stems and then directing them for further processing. This integrated grading solution, consisting of Key’s Iso-Flo® vibratory and rotary separation equipment combined with a VERYX® digital sorter, significantly reduces labor requirements, increases throughput and achieves consistent product quality, even during times of high incoming defect rates.
“Prior to this development, most fresh pack green bean lines had to rely extensively on manual labor, which is expensive, hard to find and often unreliable – packers need a better option. With our new automated grading system, customers are able to reduce the number of manual graders by up to 70 percent,” said Jeff Nielsen, Area Sales Manager at Key. “Additionally, the system’s high throughput achieves faster grading and packing, handling the same number of loads in a shorter period of time to create a shorter workday or work week for the entire packing house. This enables the grower to harvest and pack ahead of incoming adverse weather conditions that can destroy his crops and lower his pack-out rates.”
This automated grading system removes product with defects such as tip rot, wind scars and wormhole damage as well as a wide range of FM including rocks, insects and animal parts, glass, metal, cardboard, corn cobs and roots, cotton stalks, peanuts and more. The Iso-Flo vibratory feed shakers ensure good product spread while the rotary separator removes small particles and small FM. The VERYX digital sorter separates incoming product into three streams. The ‘accept’ stream sends good green beans with no clusters or stems on to final inspection and packaging. A second sort stream is dedicated to green beans in clusters or with attached stems, which are directed for further processing to recover more good beans. A third sort stream collects green beans with defects and FM, which go to waste.
“With manual packing, packers must staff their grading lines for the highest incoming defect rates. When defect rates spike, it causes ‘per box’ costs to increase, supply to tighten, prices to go up and the hourly throughput to drop to a crawl. Key’s integrated solution including VERYX flips this scenario – the packer maintains higher throughput rates with less labor for a lower ‘per box’ cost and greater ‘per box’ profit,” said Nielsen. “The impact on profitability as well as quality of life for operators, managers and employees is impressive. The resulting shorter work days reduce worker fatigue, accidents and preventative maintenance. Packers often tell me that, for the first time in their lives, they feel like they have control over what they’re sending to their customers.”
VERYX is equipped with Key’s powerful information analytics software, which collects data about every object flowing through the sorter. The segmented data can be used to profile incoming field loads in terms of its quality and defect rates. These quality profiles can be used to manage payment plans for growers. Insight into the product condition of individual loads is also valuable for understanding the impact of various field locations and growing practices on the quality of the green beans that come into the line for packing.
Inspecting the product entirely in air, Key’s belt-fed VERYX sorter is ideal for products with challenging shapes like green beans. The sorter’s LED lighting system is designed to minimize shadows for accurate inspection of each green bean and detection of stems, product clusters and any defects that may appear on the surface of the bean. Positioning the inspection sensors away from product splatter sustains accurate inspection throughout long production cycles. VERYX is designed to run unattended during normal operation.
VERYX features next-generation cameras and laser scanners that offer twice the resolution of previous sensor technology to find smaller FM and defects. Key’s unique Pixel Fusion™ technology combines pixel-level input from multiple cameras and laser sensors, producing higher contrasts to find even the most difficult-to-detect product conditions and foreign materials. Intelligent air ejectors target each object at the optimal location to cleanly separate it from the product stream without inadvertently removing surrounding objects, maximizing both product quality and yield. VERYX is available in different inspection widths to satisfy a range of capacity requirements.
In addition to VERYX, this versatile grading system can be configured with a variety of vibratory and mechanical solutions to optimize overall system performance. Key’s Iso-Flo® shakers can be designed to remove small, broken and curved beans. A PSG separator combined with an integrated Iso-Flo feeding shaker can size the product by length and diameter to remove short and thin green beans, as well as other small objects such as insects, loose stems, soil and small rocks. Robust and long lasting, Key’s vibratory and mechanical systems enhance sanitation with features such as open designs, fully-welded frames, stainless steel bed surfaces, oil-free drives and more.