TOMRA's new LUCAi platform for post-harvest efficiency in the US and New Zealand

21 May 2024

The cherry packers in California, USA, and New Zealand have implemented TOMRA's LUCAi technology, powered by artificial intelligence, with its InVision2 sorting platform over the last two seasons, with excellent results.

Prima Frutta Packing, Dunstan Hills, and Panmure Orchards have increased production and packing efficiency, minimizing waste and maintaining high product quality. According to a press release, the user-friendly interface facilitated operators' adaptation to the new technology.

The three cherry producers share the challenge of meeting growing demand, with consistent, high-quality production during the short cherry season, which typically starts in mid-May and ends in late June in California, while in New Zealand it runs from early to mid-December to late January.

After a full season with TOMRA LUCAi, they found they had benefited from greater productivity, better quality selection resulting in higher margins for their customers, and reduced food waste, according to the release.

LUCAi's cherry sorting platform is unique in its kind, as it comes with large amounts of data collected by TOMRA from different regions around the world, building pre-trained models using real cherry images. This means it is ready to deliver its superior sorting and classification performance as soon as it is installed, according to the release.

It uses TOMRA's Deep Learning technology to accurately identify a wide range of defects: from edge splits, Pacman cherries, open sutures, aesthetic imperfections, and stem breaks, to spurs, cracks, and all defects around the stem; from dehydration to apical splits; and it accurately recognizes ripening colors, according to the release.

Prima Frutta Packing is a family-owned company based in Linden, California.

It packs cherries using the latest packaging technologies for shipments within the United States and internationally to markets in Asia and other regions. It was founded in 1991 by Tim Sambado to pack products from the family's ranch orchards and surrounding areas, marketed by Primavera Marketing, also family-run.

The company has grown steadily and ten years ago introduced TOMRA Food sorters into its processing line to achieve the quality required by its customers.

“We pride ourselves on our consistent quality, day after day, season after season,” said Sambado in the release. “Our customers expect a high-quality product and excellent service from us. We can't run our business without technology and information. We are obsessed with data, and we are obsessed with having the best technology in the world.”

In 2023, TOMRA Food was in the final stages of developing its AI-powered LUCAi platform, ready to trial its innovation with customers in various conditions and regions, from California to New Zealand.

When Prima Frutta was offered this opportunity, Sambado, who believes strongly in technology, was eager to see how it could help him achieve the improvements he desired for Prima Frutta: “We wanted to become more precise, simplify the system for our operators, and be able to detect some defects that were more difficult with our traditional mapping system,” he said in the release.

LUCAi's user-friendly software interface makes it very easy for the client's operators to get the best sorting and classification performance from their processing line. “It allows us to make adjustments and gives us accurate data on the impact of sorting before making the change.

This means operators can act with greater confidence and speed. They don't have to do a lot of sampling and testing before making a change because they get the data immediately," Sambado said in the release. This immediate feedback is important because “in the world of cherries, when you are producing 40,000 cherries a minute, you don't have much time to sample.”

Dunstan Hills is a long-time customer that has been using TOMRA equipment for nearly 10 years. Based in Central Otago, New Zealand, Dunstan Hills was also interested in implementing TOMRA LUCAi technology on its InVision2 sorting platform.

Dunstan Hills grows cherries mainly for export worldwide. After a full season with TOMRA LUCAi, it found it had benefited from greater productivity, better quality selection resulting in higher margins for customers, and reduced food waste. “With LUCAi, we achieved better sorting and a productivity increase of about 10%, and the system is easy to use,” said Ian Nicholls, COO of Dunstan Hills.

LUCAi ensures the packaging of high-quality fruit, meticulously sorted and placed in optimal boxes, prepared for the most favorable market prices,

LUCAi precisely manages different cherry qualities, consistently separating fruit classes for different markets, even in challenging lots, thus avoiding fruit waste and potential market complaints, said Benedetta Ricci Iamino, global category director - cherries at TOMRA.

“Our customers can now confidently expect their best fruit, in excellent condition, to reach optimal markets, all at highly competitive prices,” said Iamino in the release. “LUCAi is able to meet a wide range of preferences and customizations, providing a comprehensive solution ready to revolutionize the industry landscape and enable our customers to achieve unprecedented success in the cherry industry.”

Source: Fruit Growers News
Image: TOMRA

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