Fresno Business Journal
Published on 08/18/2014 – 11:27 am
Written by Chuck Harvey
The difficulties commercial packinghouses have had in sorting odd-shaped fruits and vegetables may be a thing of the past.
Exeter-based Exeter Engineering has developed a high-tech produce-sorting machine called the “Sidewinder” that can handle oblong and irregular-shaped fruits and vegetables like potatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions and avocados.
“It’s been in development for years,” said Celeste Miranda, marketing consultant for Exeter Engineering. “A couple of growers are using it now.”
Miranda said processors have been seeking an automated sorter for unusual-shaped items for some time. Besides taking on unusual shaped fruits and vegetables, the Sidewinder handles small fruits like cherry tomatoes.
“It’s amazing,” Miranda said.
For various industries, sorting oblong objects and irregular-shaped fruits and vegetables can pose a challenge to machinery by virtue of their unpredictable characteristics. The new machine utilizes a gentle and innovative carrier design, together with a high-speed, high-definition camera, LED lighting system and intuitive user interface for sorting irregular shaped fruits and vegetables.
Miranda said plenty of innovation went into developing the Sidewinder.
What makes the machine different is that it spins the fruit or vegetable 360 degrees so it can be photographed with an X-ray camera from all sides rather than just one side. Getting a good view and image is important with odd-shaped items like bell peppers, Miranda said.
Prior to Exeter Engineering offering the new technology, processors usually had to look overseas for machines that sorted oblong fruits and vegetables.
One of the few such machines produced in the U.S. is by Lakewood Process Machinery in Holland, Mich. However, it does not spin the fruits and vegetables for a 360-degree view, Miranda said.
Now Exeter Engineering is shipping its Sidewinder machine to customers overseas. Miranda said Exeter Engineering sizes the machine to the customer’s specifications and sends out a crew to set the machines up.
“It is custom-shipped in pieces,” Miranda said.
Exeter Engineering is a 36-year-old company with about 85 employees.
It has produced a range of electronic sorting systems, washing equipment, accumulation systems, packaging machines and product conveyors.
The company is known for its Accuvision electronic sorter, grader and sizer. It operates with a cable pulley featuring polyurethane jacketed cables. It has the ability to detect surface defects.
The Sidewinder went on sale recently and was not ready in time for display at the World Ag Expo in Tulare. However, it will be displayed at the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit Convention & Expo in Anaheim from Oct 17-19. Exeter Engineering will have a 40-foot by 40-foot booth, Miranda said. payday online loan