TOMRA at Logofruits

Logofruits, Portugal

Logofruits started off about four years ago in Alcácer do Sol with 15 hectares of farmland. Since then, they expanded to include the Odemira region with an eye on a wider production and harvest season. Logofruits' state-of-the-art plant allows them to provide their customer base with quality products fitting every customer's specifications. Additionally, they also provide their services to third parties from Chile, Peru, and South Africa. Thanks to machines such as the KATO 360, LUCAi™, and CURO, their new integrated TOMRA Food sorting and grading line allows them to boost the automatization process of their sorting and packing.

In just five years since its start-up, Logofruits has become the largest blueberry producer in Portugal and one of the largest in Europe. As well as growing and packing fruit for well-known supermarket chains in northern Europe and Spain, Logofruits also provides packing services for wholesalers from South America and South Africa. And the business is still growing: for its sixth season, in 2024, production at its packhouse near Alcácer will step up from one shift per day to two.

This fast-moving success story has been made possible by the vision and exacting standards of the business' founder and managing partner, Lourenço De Botton. Although Lourenço started cautiously, with a modest 15-hectare site, he thinks big. After researching the blueberry industry's challenges and opportunities and visiting other blueberry packhouses to see how they do things, he arrived at two important decisions.

One of those decisions was to invest in packhouse line equipment from TOMRA Food so that packing fruit for export could be brought in-house rather than delegating it to a third party. In readiness for the 2023 season, state-of-the-art line solutions were installed at the Alcácer plant in November 2022: TOMRA's KATO260 precision grading system with LUCAi™ artificial intelligence and two TOMRA CURO filling systems.

The other important decision was made possible by the first one: to add a new revenue stream by also using the TOMRA line equipment to sort and pack blueberries from South American companies (from Chile and Peru) and South African ones who wanted to sell in Europe. Logofruits' Alcácer location in the Setūbal municipality, 95 kilometers south of Lisbon, is conveniently close to major highways and the export ports of Setubal and Sines. Here, the 15-hectare plot was quickly increased to 90-hectares. Then a second, 70-hectare site was acquired closer to Lisbon to widen the company's production and harvesting season.

TOMRA at logofruits

Lourenço explains: “We expect demand to keep increasing over the next couple of years, but we also expect that it will get harder for small producers. More and more, this is going to be an industrial-scale segment, with cost control becoming even more important than it already is. This means technology is one of the most important factors for our company – not only in the field but also in our packaging facilities. We extensively evaluated the market and the various technical solutions available before investing in equipment. This research showed that the fit between Logofruits and TOMRA was like hand in glove.”

When Lourenço is asked how useful TOMRA's line solutions have subsequently proven, he replies without hesitation: “They're game-changers.”

AI-powered KATO260 sorter plus CURO filling stations

The KATO260 is the industry-leading precision sorting and grading system for blueberries. Compact to minimize floor-space requirements and designed to handle the fruit gently to maximize bloom retention and shelf life, this versatile system is suitable for any fruit sorting condition. Whether sizing fruit into numerous bands or removing defective fruit, the KATO260 provides five or seven outlets for seamless sorting in any size packing facility.

Fruit is gently loaded onto the KATO260 by an automated Tray Tipper, which ensures a consistent supply and even distribution of blueberries onto the sorter, optimizing throughput. Then the KATO260's unique rolling conveyor system singulates and rotates blueberries to allow for a complete 360-degree surface inspection. Cameras take multiple pictures of each piece of fruit, and for precision grading, the machine's software can identify defects as small as 0.2mm. What's more, this system's unrivaled guardianship of product quality is complemented by speed: it can sort up to 286 or 572 berries per second if running two KATO260's at the same time.

A valuable optional add-on for the KATO260 is a software and hardware package called LUCAi™, which employs Artificial Intelligence to classify and grade fruit with unprecedented accuracy. After each piece of fruit passes along the grading line, it is photographed by multiple cameras, then LUCAi™ identifies and instructs how each individual berry is to be classified. Capable of processing up to 2,400 images per second, LUCAi™ can also view fruit in wavelengths not visible to the human eye, seeing subtle defects such as dehydration, bruising, and early anthracnose.

At the end of Logofruits' line, the fruit reaches the CURO16 packing system, with 16 filling stations, or the CURO12, with 12 filling stations. These machines increase productivity by reducing human handling errors and fruit give-away, weighing to an accuracy of 1-2 blueberries per pack, and can simultaneously pack for different markets. The CURO16 is the fastest fill-by-weight option on the market, capable of handling up to 200 125-gram packs of fruit per minute; the CURO12 can handle 150 packs per minute. The sorting line's low drops and minimal transitions ensure the fruit is handled gently as it is directed into packs.

TOMRA at logofruits
TOMRA at logofruits

Unlocking access to new markets

Logofruits' Packing House Manager at the Alcácer plant, Miguel Silva, affirms Lourenço De Botton's view that the TOMRA equipment has been transformative. He remembers: “Before we acquired these machines, we were dispatching nearly all our fruit to our partners in Holland to be packed for the different European markets. In Portugal, we packed only products for the domestic market ourselves, and we did this manually. With the new equipment, we have gained control of our product quality and our price-setting. We are able to control quality to the smallest detail.

“With KATO, we can sort by size, softness, and shape – the roundness or ovality of the fruit. This has eliminated problems with produce being rejected by clients. We've reduced rejections almost to zero. We can satisfy each client's individual specifications by putting exactly what fruit we want into each pallet or box. And with the CURO12 and 16, we can do multiple formats, handling two distinctive orders at the same time.”

Lourenco summarizes: “Our product quality is now reliably excellent, which will further increase our reputation and sales. We can now meet the needs of markets that we couldn't before, also opening the door to new sales. And our relationship with TOMRA is strong. There is a great partnership between machine-user and machine-supplier which will help us keep moving forward.”

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