Mariani, dried fruit industry leader, recently decided to integrate grading and sorting on one prune processing line at its Marysville, California facility. Mariani selected a state-of-the-art VERYX® optical sorter from Key Technology to find and remove foreign material (FM) and product defects to make grade while maximizing yield.

To achieve its food safety and product quality objectives, Mariani selected a fully-loaded VERYX C140 chute-fed sorter equipped with front- and back-mounted color cameras, laser scanners, and Key’s proprietary Pixel Fusion™ detection module. Recognizing the color, size, shape and structural property of every object, Mariani’s VERYX is programmed to find and eject defects such as scabs, cracks, exposed meat, and brown rot, as well as all types of FM such as glass, rocks, plastic, insects, animal parts, extraneous vegetative matter (EVM), and other materials.

With VERYX, Mariani has a tool that finds difficult-to-detect FM and defects. The company states that it has virtually eliminated all Class 1 FM, which includes allergens such as almonds and walnuts that can come from neighboring growing fields.

Mariani’s old sorter inspected product from the top only, so it could not see every defect. With VERYX, the company is accomplishing all-sided surface inspection, which is essential for prunes as they can present defects on any side. With no blind spots, Mariani has a more accurate sort.

The company is also able to better maintain sort accuracy over long production cycles. Mariani’s old sorter got bogged down with product build-up, causing the sorter to fire its ejectors too often or not at all. The company would clean the old sorter during the production run, but that caused further issues because, when prunes get wet, FM tends to stick to good product. However, VERYX is designed specifically to minimize product build-up, and performs perfectly with no midshift washdowns.

Prior to installing VERYX, Mariani had to size-grade on a separate line due to the old sorter’s limitations, requiring ten workers over two 8-hour shifts to keep pace with incoming product. VERYX has improved sort performance and increased sort capacity, which has enabled Mariani to integrate sorting and grading on one line. This year, the company is producing the same volume of prunes in one 10-hour shift with only six workers.

Key’s remote monitoring service also supports Mariani’s in-house team and adds to the company’s confidence. With remote monitoring on VERYX, a Key technician can access and adjust settings on the sorter remotely, if needed.

During its seven-to-eight-month season, Mariani typically runs 13,000 to 14,000 pounds (lbs.) of product per hour on its prune sorting and grading line. Since VERYX C140 is rated to sort up to 20,000 lbs. of prunes per hour, the company has room to grow.

VERYX enables Mariani to achieve its final product quality specifications despite wide fluctuations in raw product quality due to the ongoing California drought. At the same time, VERYX also maximizes yield, improves efficiency, and eases labor requirements.

Key Technology: