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Born in the 1980s, PEF company is daily committed to satisfying their customers, delivering a great quality product, and increasing their production.
PEF is a leading company in Italy's carrot industry. It manages the entire supply chain, from sowing to the supermarket shelves. Recently, in order to better cope with the production peak in Sicily, the company purchased two TOMRA sorting machines that enable more accurate sorting and defect-free second sorting. The machines are connected to the TOMRA Insight digital platform, which enables the company to monitor workflows and yields for continuous improvement.
PEF Srl is a company established in 1980 by the Peviani and the Pavan families. Its core business is carrots, which the company processes across the full supply chain, from sowing – on their two owned farms – to packaging. It operates two Italian plants: one in Chioggia, Veneto, and the other at the opposite end of the country, in Ispica, at the southernmost tip of eastern Sicily. Massimo Pavan is the president of PEF and president of the Consortium of the IGP Ispica carrot.
The company processes about 25,000 tonnes of carrots per year between the Ispica plant and the Chioggia plant, covering the market all year round, for fresh product customers and for co-packers that package the product for mass distribution in the domestic and export markets.
For the Veneto-based company, which operates twelve months a year for the agro-industry, the summer is particularly dedicated to exports. Fifty percent of its fresh carrot production is destined to these markets – mainly Germany, France, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Eastern Europe, which resort to imports once the local refrigerated product is finished.
The Sicilian plant works at full capacity from February to June. To effectively manage this peak, it has recently purchased two TOMRA carrot sorters.
Massimo Pavan is proud of his company: "We are among the first in Italy in this business. We also have two farms because carrot harvesting and production are mechanized, so we need to manage both with synergy. In addition, since the 2000s, the large-scale retail trade has demanded greater control over production, from sowing to packaging; our farms allow us to ensure controlled products across the entire supply chain."
This attention to the product, the supply chain and technology is also reflected in the decision to automate sorting as much as possible, reducing manual sorting, which is vulnerable to human error.
Massimo Pavan explains: "We needed a fast machine that would remove waste effectively. Following the introduction of the two new TOMRAs – positioned after the washing and the mechanical pickers – the sorting quality has improved and is consistent." Numbers give a better idea: thanks to the new sorters, we have reduced by 50% the staff dedicated to manual control. Pavan explains: "Checking carrots for eight hours a day is tiring and it's difficult not to get distracted. In addition, it is difficult to find labor because it is seasonal work. Therefore, automation is a necessity. As entrepreneurs, we must be far-sighted and forestall issues such as pandemics and labor shortages as much as possible."
His opinion of the TOMRA sorting machine, which has been at work for a couple of months, is positive: "I am satisfied. The machine is compact, powerful, simple and fast."
TOMRA was a brand that PEF's management already knew. "Massimo Pavan contacted us directly," says Dario Cotena, Area Sales Manager at TOMRA Processed Food Italy, "because he has known our sorting machines for quite some time. We visited together a customer in Germany with the same type of product, so that he could see the machine at work in this specific application." He continues: "The customer's need was to increase production to more than 10 T/h of product per line (on 2 lines, for a total of more than 20 T/h), while reducing processing times, removing foreign bodies, standardizing quality, reducing manual sorting and obtaining statistics for the different batches and the final product."
The machine has been set up at the company to sort two types of waste: the first (forked carrots or small pieces) goes to animals, the second to the agri-food industry, where it is used as an ingredient for minestrone, puree and carrot-based products. "This double selection is very useful for us," says Pavan, "and it has literally changed our work, because the quality of the second choice has increased so much compared to manual selection."
The jewel in the crown of the new sorting machines is the TOMRA Insight platform, which provides access to processing data to manage work and downtime effectively, and control the quality of outgoing products and incoming batches – all this on any connected fixed or mobile device.
"The platform gives us a good idea of the type of waste: broken carrots, rotten carrots, unevenly shaped carrots. You get a better understanding of what the machine is processing. It also tells you how many tonnes you have processed, whether the machine is fed well and which fingers are working the hardest, because, with the speed of the machine, you cannot see it with the naked eye. Of course, we have to learn how to operate it to its full potential," adds Pavan.
Earlier this year, TOMRA's digital team came in during the installation to explain the use of the platform. "They also see and analyze the collected data at TOMRA and gave me two or three suggestions for the next season to improve the performance of the machine and production," says Pavan. "Being supported by the experts remotely is a huge added value. You are not left on your own."
He concludes: "Digitalization in the fruit and vegetable sector is absolutely necessary. We have to get rid of manual, repetitive work that nobody wants to do anymore and redeploy staff to more rewarding jobs. Not to mention that you have software in your hands that is updated as technology advances, keeping us competitive."