Food Sorting & Automation: A solution to increase efficiency & waste reduction


Automation is becoming more of a requirement than an option in the food processing industry. The rigorous quality and cost controls required in the food industry is making it more critical. Production of high grade food requires capable and efficient inspection and sorting systems, in the operations and production line. The food is sorted by color, size, shape, specific gravity prior to inspection and other criteria depending upon the raw material and application.

Global interest is increasing towards the quality of food consumed along with the stringent legislations on product quality and operating procedures. In the food industry, the product specification is extremely important, and is one of those area where new developments are crossing the boundaries. The food industry is under immense pressure of meeting the demands of growing world population.

The global population is becoming urbanized and there is heavy industrialization seen in the emerging economies. This leads to an upward trend towards convenience foods that are healthy, nutritious and easy to prepare. Food security is an emerging challenge for policy makers and companies in the food supply chain. Over the period food production will be under threat from climate change, competing land uses, erosion and diminishing supplies of clean water. One of the solutions to this dilemma is increased efficiency and waste reduction in the food supply chain. Food sorting machines offer increase in efficiency by selectively filtering out the undesired materials from the main food. 

Sorting is a process of separation of various materials based on specific criteria such as color, size, texture, and others. Food sorting machine is equipment used by food processing companies for sorting or segregating food products such as dry and packaged food items, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, fats and oil, fish and seafood, meat, and others. Food processing companies use sorting machines to maximize the yield and reduce the wastage. Food products are segregated on the basis of various parameters such as shapes, size, color, image, and weight. The sorting helps in identifying and removing food contaminants and foreign materials (FMs) from food products. Various FMs that can be removed by sorting includes metals, stones, insects, glass, and others. Based on the product type, the food sorting machines can be categorized as automated food sorting machines and mechanical food sorting machines. Based on technology, the automated food sorting machines can be further categorized as laser sorters, camera sorters, and x-ray sorters.

The main purpose is separation of foreign seeds and bodies, such as unhealthy or spotted grains. The insertion of optical sorter into strategic positions of the milling process facilitates and optimizes the whole cleaning process. Worldwide the optical sorters are being used in the food industry. It’s highly adopted in the processing of harvested foods such as fruits, potatoes, vegetables and nuts where it achieves non-destructive, 100% inspection on full production volume. Since manual sorting is subjective and inconsistent, its not preferred. Optical sorting helps to improve the product quality, increase yields, maximize throughput while reducing labor costs. Since few years the trend is of integration of the traditional mechanical cleaning process with optical sorting machines.

Growing population, rising urbanization, growing technological awareness, industrialization of emerging economies and increasing per capita income are some of the key factors driving the growth of the food sorting machines market. Environmental Protection Agency regulations on disposal of food waste, changing consumption patterns and smaller households are few of the probable factors restraining the growth of the food sorting machines market.

Though food sorting machines is a new technology for emerging economies like India, but in the developed economies like North America and Europe the same technology is in use for years. With growing global population and increasing pressure on food industry to meet the customer demands, the acceptance of food sorting machines is gaining popularity.

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