Ardo, a family owned business, started up its industrial activities in 1977 in Ardooie, Belgium. With more than 3,000 employees worldwide and a turnover of 620 million euros in 2011, Ardo is known as the European leader in production and sales of frozen vegetables. Today, Ardo has fourteen production and/or packing factories in eight European countries. The company delivers frozen vegetables to distributors but also to international food brands like Tesco, Iglo, Bofrost, Unilever, Heinz and Picard.
The first contacts with Ardo date back to the time Barco and later Elbicon/Pulsarr provided sorting solutions to the company. Given the strong relationship and the high sorting performance, all purchases were mostly made with BEST. Currently, Ardo has over 45 different BEST machines running at different plants across Europe.
ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES FOR A MULTITUDE OF APPLICATIONS
As it is the main objective of Ardo to sort fresh vegetables before freezing, the belt sorting technology is considered the best alternative on the market. Julien Dubois, Packing and Optical Sorting Technologies Project Engineer at Ardo, claims that not only the high level of foreign material and defect removal is outstanding, the machines are also upgradeable and flexible in use.
“Depending on the type of vegetables being sorted we can easily adapt the settings and optimize the sorting results. Furthermore, the advanced and innovative technologies guarantee the highest level of reliability and increase our competitiveness in the market.” In the future it will also be possible to install the smart sort module, making the machines self learning and less operator dependent thanks to advanced artificial intelligence.
“Given the international character of the company, the possibility to equip every production line with the same sorter is a significant added value,” says Dubois. Depending on the specific vegetables to be processed, the technology of the sorter can be defined and laser or camera configuration can be tailored to the specific sorting specifications.
SORTING SPINACH AT HIGH CAPACITY
The Genius™ spinach sorter is the most recent investment. The machine provides an answer to the specific needs of the industrial spinach industry for the sorting of whole spinach leaves.
Introducing innovations on both the mechanical (spreading of the product) and optical (state-of-the art laser and camera technology) part, this sorting machine guarantees a total inspection of each single spinach leaf at high capacity.
Dubois explains: “Taking a look at the first sorting results, the sorter can be described as a cost-effective solution which combines a revolutionary infeed system with an optimal detection and removal of foreign material and discolorations in one single machine. Brown leaves from trees, wood, black corn cores, yellow and brown spinach leaves and even animals are defects seen within the reject stream.” Furthermore, it stands out from the competition being user-friendly and easy to integrate in different positions of a processing line.
The constant investments, developments and evolution in the offered technologies characterizes BEST as the inventor of laser technology and overall market leader in sorting technologies. “For example, the launch of hyper spectral analysis will certainly improve the sorting results in the coming years,” indicated Dubois. The efforts made to improve the current technologies and the investments in new areas of expertise enhance the strong position of BEST and its customers in the market.
CHALLENGES FOR THE FUTURE
The removal of foreign material from the produce and the importance of working according to the quality standards remains the biggest challenges when it comes to delivering a healthy and high quality product to the consumer.
Dubois explains: “It’s Ardo’s main objective to obtain a zero complaint level when it comes to offering natural, healthy and safe vegetables.” Facing the constant risk of producing unhealthy food, Ardo relies on BEST’s expertise and know-how to offer qualitative vegetables. “Together with BEST it is possible to achieve the highest level of efficiency in the removal of stones, plastic, insects, vermin and discolorations. The comparison of sorting results before and after the investment in a new Genius™ machine for the sorting of green beans even shows a reduction between fifty and eighty percent (depending on the green bean variety) of extraneous vegetable material in the final produce.”
Another challenge is the possibility to adjust the production line capacity to the specific requirements of each project. BEST is acknowledged as a valued partner in this field, offering customized solutions. Given the current economic situation and environmental challenges, it will become more important in the future to further improve the good to bad ratio and minimize the waste. “I strongly believe that by partnering with BEST we will be able to optimize our processes and reduce the waste to an absolute minimum,” Dubois concludes.