Innofresh pilots world’s first automated grape packing machine

By Jenny Eagle contact

- Last updated on GMT

Picture credit: iStock
Picture credit: iStock

Related tags: Fruit

InnoFresh Packing, a joint company set up by the Budelpack Group and IQ Packing, both in The Netherlands, has installed its first grape packaging machine at The Greenery, processing up to 1,200 punnets per hour.

The Greenery, also based in The Netherlands, supplies fresh daily fruit and vegetables to international supermarket chains, wholesalers, caterers and the food processing industry.

3,600 punnets per hour

grapes

The pilot line will be optimised during the first overseas season and during Phase 2 it will be scaled up to an output of 3,600 punnets per hour i.e. an industrial packing line.

In Phase 3, the line will be modified to make it suitable for packaging such as punnet variants.

InnoFresh Packing is headed up by Peter Nieuwkerk, director/owner, the Budelpack Group and Rob Bondt, director/co-owner, IQ Packing.

Packing grapes in the Netherlands ensures the customer-order-decoupling point shifts from the country of origin to the Netherlands​,” said Nieuwkerk.

Retailers want to decide which packaging they will offer consumers as late as possible. If packaged grapes are imported, it’s just like the T-Ford: there’s choice, but only as long as it is in a 500g punnet. That stands to change from today onwards.​” 

Budelpack Equipment Services developed an automated packing line for grapes over two years’ ago to expand into other market segments but it needed the expertise of IQ Packing, which specialises in manual and machine packing of vegetables and fruit, to do this.

It needed a level of automation that could offer an affordable packing cost which was appealing for foreign grape exporters to pack their grapes in the Netherlands.

Poor products won’t be packed

The automated line combined with chain optimisation makes packing in the Netherlands an option, which, in turn, has various advantages: Grapes can be imported unpackaged allowing 30% more kg to fit in a reefer transport. 

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The Greenery

The time consuming checking of pre-packaged products upon arrival is now conducted on the packing line. Poor products won’t be packed. 

Client-specific labelling is done on the packing line and does not need additional work. 

According to Nieuwkerk, packing in the Netherlands means all manner of packaging innovations will be able to be done on the line in the future.

The initial drawings have already been made​,” he said.

“Think, for example of special packaging for sweet grapes or seedless grapes to make things easier for consumers and improve recognisability.”

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