Reasons for optimism
The good news is that all of these challenges - even the well-hidden threat posed by aflatoxin - can be met by using modern optical sorting machines. Industry-leader TOMRA Food offers a wide range of sorting solutions with various levels of sophistication to perform tasks of varying complexity. These machines are precisely calibrated for specific food applications and highly effective for many types of seed and grain. TOMRA machines are currently in operation around the world, sorting seed and feed corn, dry beans, lentils, chickpeas, dry peas, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and roasted and unroasted coffee beans.
As well as enhancing food safety and product quality, TOMRA’s sorters deliver other benefits. These machines can grade to specification, increase removal efficiency, minimize false rejects, reduce or eliminate the need for manual intervention, and reduce or eliminate dependence on manual labor. The last point is especially important in developing nations where processors have traditionally relied on people rather than machines for sorting: whereas manual sorting is subjective, imperfect, and especially vulnerable to error when workers are tired or bored, automated sorters can work for hour after hour with superior accuracy, consistent standards, and unflagging efficiency.
What’s more, TOMRA’s machines are designed to be easy to keep clean, improve food hygiene, and be easily maintained, reducing line downtime. And because TOMRA’s machine platforms are robust, and their optical sensors are optimally located, sorting performance remains stable even when working conditions are dusty or subject to temperature extremes. Users find there is little or no degradation in sorting performance from the beginning of a shift to the end.
Wide-ranging sorting solutions
TOMRA’s sorters can inspect materials passing along the processing line according to their shape, color, structure, and biological characteristics. Which of these capabilities a machine possesses depends upon its technical specification, which will incorporate one or more ways of ‘seeing’: x-ray, high-resolution cameras, lasers, near-infrared (NIR) optical sensors, and TOMRA’s unique Biometric Signature Identification technology.
A variety of TOMRA machines are best-suited to seeds and grains: the Ixus Bulk, Zea, TOMRA 3C, and Nimbus BSI+, depending on the specific requirements.
The Ixus Bulk employs the latest x-ray and imaging technology to detect high-density foreign materials such as metal, stones, glass, and plastics.
The Zea, developed specifically for the seed corn industry, is an affordable sensor-based machine for sorting and grading ear corn husk, defects, disease, and size.
The TOMRA 3C combines high-resolution cameras with LED lighting plus laser or NIR units to remove foreign materials and product defects. This affordable and compact machine needs very little floor space and is loved by operators for its intuitive TOMRA ACT user interface. It works by pouring infeed materials into a hopper, then sending the feed to fall onto a vibration plate, which is spread evenly on an infeed chute. The materials then fall further into a detection area, where they are inspected by a dual laser and double-sided high-resolution cameras. In a matter of milliseconds, the intelligent inspection system rejects all defects. The acceptable product continues through the accept chute while the flaws are diverted via the reject chute.