With the new production line and sorting machine, the number of manual sorters went from eight to just one.

BC Fruit Trees unveils high-tech sorter in Oliver packing house

The automated production line uses cameras to sort and grade peaches, nectarines, and apples.

By Brennan Phillips

Special to the Western News

To help facilitate the demand for peaches, BC Tree Fruits unveiled a state-of-the-art peach and apple packing production line in their South Okanagan packing house.

The installation of this multi-million dollar packing line in Oliver was just completed and saw the first bins of fruit put through recently.

“We’re just six shifts into production with the new line and we’ve already broken records for the number of bins we’ve gone through in a shift,” said Bal Dhaliwal, the operations manager for the south for BC Tree Fruits. “That’s why we’re so optimistic about the new system.”

The launch of this new packing line brings the Okanagan Valley, and more specifically the members of BC Tree Fruits Co-operative, the advantage of having some of the most advanced efficient grading technology in Canada. The new packing line delivers accurate and consistent fruit quality to consumers across Western Canada and will support the expectation in the market of high quality, locally grown fruit.

“We are excited to bring this technology to our grower members,” said director of operations Peter Hoffman. “This new packing line utilizes an optical sorter that has advanced machine-learning capabilities that revolutionizes the sorting process. The results will allow us to colour map, grade and defect sort fruit with increased accuracy, all with the focus of delivering consistent, high-quality fruit to our consumers.”

The new line is focused around the Spectrim sizer. Armed with an array of cameras, capable of viewing in visible light, as well as in penetrating infrared light, the machine is capable of sorting fruit by size and colour, as well as detecting defected produce. The new machine eliminates the need for a pre-sizer and cuts down on the number of sorters needed to go over the fruit by hand, allowing fruit to take a single trip from drop off to packaging. The new line has added 14 packing lines for trays, to the four lines currently used for packing cherries. Currently under work as part of the modernization project, six new bagging lines will be ready for apples in the fall, more than doubling the existing four lines.

“With the launch of this new packing line, we maintain our commitment to reinvest in our industry and our growers with state-of-the-art technology,” said Stan Swales, chief executive officer. “With this line comes the ability for us to continue to meet our consumer’s expectations of premium fruit whenever they see the BC Tree Fruits leaf.”

The Oliver facility will handle the packing of all summer fruits for BC Tree Fruits Co-operative other than cherries, which are packed in the Kelowna facility. The new packing line will also handle apples starting in the fall.

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