A new vision for sorting high quality onions at Elveden


A turnkey optical onion sorting line, implementing a collaboration between UK vegetable handling equipment manufacturer Tong Engineering and French machine maker MAF Agrobotic, has enabled UK leading vegetable producer Elveden Farms Ltd minimize labor requirements while increasing the capacity and efficiency of its onion processing operations.

Based on the Norfolk / Suffolk border, Elveden Farms markets over 45,000 tonnes of onions annually to the supermarket, wholesale and processing sectors, processing up to 300 tonnes of onions per day.

Andrew Francis, director of farms at Elveden Farms explained; “Our requirements for the new optical sorting line were very specific. We employed an independent specialist consultant to research the market and determine the optical sorting machine that would provide the highest quality results on our onion crop. As the UK distributor of MAF Agrobotic equipment, Tong presented MAF’s optical sorting capabilities, which could be integrated into a full range of Tong. Working closely on the project with Tong and MAF for almost 2 years, performing extensive testing with Elveden Onions, it was clear that the turnkey optical sorting solution they could offer was going to be the best. We were very impressed with the breadth of MAF Agrobotic’s expertise and development resources, which gave us the assurance that the bespoke solution would meet our current and future needs.

Elveden’s new optical sorting line features Tong’s custom feeding equipment, with a focus on efficient onion topping to ensure the best crop presentation to the MAF sorter, for optimal sizing and defect sorting. For maximum flexibility, the Tong design includes both conventional fan trim and scroll trim equipment with bypass options. Once the onions are received and headed, MAF’s flagship optical sorting machine, the Pomone, sorts by weight as well as external and internal sorting. The 10-way model of the Pomone is capable of sorting over 30 tonnes of onions per hour for an average onion weight of 130 grams.

The proven MAF Pomone sorter features high performance optical sorting technology. The G7 is MAF’s proprietary LED external optical sorting system, which uses state-of-the-art images to detect imperfections or blemishes in bunion skin. Its ability to identify blemishes on white and red onions is a unique and unmatched attribute of MAF Pomone. In addition, highly efficient artificial intelligence algorithms can be used to enable G7 technology to gradually learn fault specifications for even better categorization. The G7 camera system quickly captures multiple images of each onion, enabling extremely precise and consistent external sorting. This, together with precise calibration, ensures an almost perfect sizing of the crop.

Even more impressive is the internal fault detection capabilities of the IDD8 (formerly IDD4) internal fault technology, designed by MAF and patented. The IDD8 detection system effectively identifies internal defects in onions, including the accurate detection of translucent, base rot, neck rot, fusarium rotten kernel, and several other internal issues. All internal load faults are easily recorded and directed to the correct outlet. The new advanced IDD8 is very easy to use and is managed from a user-friendly interface connected to MAF Orphea software, which is seamlessly integrated with Elveden’s ERP system for detailed data management.


In addition to this advanced internal and external optical sorting technology exclusive to MAF, the MAF Pomone also uses Insight 2, which is a near infrared halogen optical sorting system like those more commonly known and used in the industry.

“MAF’s unique external and particularly internal optical defect technology sets the MAF Pomone sorter apart from other optical sorters on the market, by detecting defects that are not visible with standard optical vision,” said Charlie Rich, Sales Manager at Tong Engineering. . “Our long-standing relationship with MAF has allowed us to work closely together to design and manufacture a fully bespoke optical sorting facility for Elveden. It incorporates state-of-the-art handling technology to ensure the most advanced and automated processing, with minimal manpower. “

Commenting on Elveden Farms’ new optical sorting solution, Andrew added, “We have dramatically reduced the number of inspection staff needed to process our onion crop, so much so that for some customers we are in. able to process their onions without any inspection staff on the line. The MAF sorter has significantly increased our throughput and yield of salable onions. We are now able to sort crops so efficiently that we often save good onions that may have been wasted previously. This means we are using our harvest more efficiently than ever, knowing that the right harvest is going to the right point of sale. “

MAF Agrobotic Export Sales Director Vincent Boulbes confirmed how delighted the MAF team was to see the optical sorting project in Elveden come to fruition. “We are delighted that Elveden has chosen MAF and Tong’s optical sorting solution. Elveden’s independent consultants evaluated all onion grading options currently available on the market and identified MAF as the best supplier for a robust and reliable optical solution that offers superior crop inspection that meets high retailer standards. British. The intense development work that our team of engineers put in to ensure a very efficient sorting of the quality of the onions has really paid off.

The MAF management team are also very proud of the latest onion installation. Fabrice Blanc, Managing Director of MAF Agrobotic and Director of MAF South Africa, acknowledged MAF’s commitment to continuously develop its onion grading capabilities. “We are very grateful to the Elveden team for their involvement in the project. We worked closely to identify the capabilities of the MAF optical sorter on onions. MAF highly values ​​the trust and close relationship we have developed with Elveden. With a focus on innovation and reliability, MAF will continue to develop new solutions in grading onions for the highest quality optical grading. MAF’s success with Tong in the UK will help pave the way for this market to expand worldwide, including the US, Europe and South Africa, where I work closely.


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