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Created in 1984 in Tourville-sur-Odon in the Calvados region (14) by Catherine and Christian Duchemin, Duchemin specialise in potatoes, which they market as the brand La Ferme du Val D’odon. By using the TOMRA 3A high-performance sorting machine, they are able to ensure their potatoes are a premium product.
Guillaume Duchemin joined the family business 14 years ago and is in charge of site management. Here he shares feedback on his business’ experience using the TOMRA 3A sorter, which in the past two years has been an important part of the company’s drive to optimise process and team work.
With its leading-edge multispectral technology and pulsed LEDs, the TOMRA 3A is exactly the kind of machine that can help ambitious businesses improve efficiencies and profitability.
Duchemin installed their machine in the potato storage shed, where the tractors tip full skips of potatoes straight from the fields, and here it runs at an impressive average capacity of 30 tonnes per hour. The machine is currently running at full capacity for the second year – continuous evidence of the gains made from the innovating policy that has linked TOMRA Food and Duchemin for many years.
Duchemin is so committed to continuous improvement that it has a five-person quality committee. The aims are to reduce workplace hardship, improve productivity and identify new sales opportunities. In 2017 Duchemin was approached to become one of the very first customers worldwide to test the TOMRA 3A prototype, a new generation of sorting machine. The business’ feedback contributed to making the TOMRA 3A an ultra-effective machine and became part of the TOMRA Food catalogue in September 2019. After two production seasons using this machine in the potato storage shed, Duchemin has noted the added value provided by TOMRA Food.
“We are attached to TOMRA Food because it’s a customer-oriented business. We didn’t need to adapt our product to the machine, it’s the machine that adapted to our product. That was a very positive approach”, says Guillaume Duchemin, site manager of Duchemin.
The TOMRA 3A analyses the tubers as they fall and ejects foreign bodies such as stones, soil clods, and wood, and defective (green products), while the products are moving down the processing line. The TOMRA 3A was designed to run at very high speeds without damaging the products. At Duchemin, this machine can manage up to 30 varieties of potato, from the smallest to the largest grade, representing all the cooking segments, such as firm white flesh, firm red flesh, and chips.
Guillaume Duchemin commented: “This morning we noticed some rapeseed regrowth in the potato deliveries, which it is essential to remove because it can be a source of disease in the refrigerators, a risk we cannot take. Before we had the TOMRA 3A, we would have assigned two extra people to sorting. This is no longer needed as the machine does the work. And above all, the speed stays the same. For some varieties in the past, we could spend an hour and a half sorting a skip of potatoes, whereas with the TOMRA 3A, 45 minutes is enough. A sorting machine means less workplace hardship. Even though the business still employs four people on the sorting belts, they have less pressure and more time to perfect the work.”
“The TOMRA 3A is a very compact machine that was easy to add to the processing line, on the soil removal exit and before pallet packing. This machinery is strong and reliable, but just in case of problems, there is also excellent after-sales support.”
Guillaume Duchemin continues: “This is crucial: for a one-hour machine stoppage, 25 people would be waiting to resume their work, but the TOMRA Food after-sales department is very fast to respond and troubleshoot. We have peace of mind as TOMRA systematically proposes a preventive maintenance contract. Because technological machinery is essential, it must be maintained.”
The TOMRA 3A also assists Duchemin with its precise material accounting. Managed by the TOMRA ACT software platform, this sorting machine supplies very accurate statistics on completed processes, and these are illustrated by graphics displayed dynamically in real-time on the control touch screen. In the future, this tool will make it possible to provide even more upstream details for producers and, if they wish, also their customers.
“We process potatoes from our own fields or from partner producers. I can receive batches of goods containing five grades. I may find up to seven grades in a single variety. Grades mean different prices, both when buying and selling. I need to prove this to my producers. My suppliers receive accurate statements, guaranteeing long-lasting, trusting relationships. We manage 24 producers who have been loyal to us for years, and that’s not just luck! At the other end of the line, we have to comply with our customers’ specifications, the big retailers. We have 12 audits per year by the quality managers of our buyers and external bodies. The TOMRA 3A makes it possible to adapt to meet those business demands.”
For the 2019 season, 550 hectares of potato were planted, 18,000 tonnes gross received. Cropping methods are based on organic, conventional and agri-ecology. The business employs 60 permanent employees and 40 additional people at the peak of the harvest season. During this season, the potato storage centre operates from 14 to 16 hours per day. The business receives 30 varieties and five grades, and manages a fleet of 14 vehicles (trucks and tractors) which cover 150,000 km during the harvest.