For one thing, foreign material and shell fragments can get into the processing line’s product stream. For another, nuts can be damaged by both by external and internal defects which can be almost impossible to detect. There’s also the risk posed by allergens if one type of nut should unintentionally get mixed with another. Yet all of these threats have to be eliminated to protect processors and retailers from product recalls and reputational damage.
If this makes nut processing sound like Russian Roulette, the good news is that it’s possible to remove all the bullets! This is achievable thanks to the extraordinary effectiveness of state-of-the-art optical sorting machines. What’s more, today’s sorting solutions deliver a multitude of other benefits: they grade to specification, minimize false rejects, increase removal efficiency, reduce or eliminate the need for manual intervention, help solve the problem of labor (scarcity, cost, effectiveness), reduce downtime, and provide data about the product being sorted. Through all of these capabilities, sorters improve sustainability by cutting food waste while enhancing yields and profits.
Here we take a brief look at how sorters achieve all this. We spotlight their capabilities with five popular types of nut to see the sorting solutions offered by industry-leader TOMRA Food. By looking first at almond processing, we introduce and explain the technologies applicable throughout the various stages of almond processing. We will also examine how sorters operate effectively on lines handling, macadamia, walnuts, hazelnuts, and peanuts.
THE PROCESS FOR ALMONDS, DIFFERENT SORTERS FOR DIFFERENT TASKS
As harvested nuts are hulled, shelled, then processed, different sorting solutions are needed to perform various tasks. Sorting machines initially take care of fairly basic requirements, but as the nuts progress along the line towards storage or packaging, the sorters become more sophisticated and specialized in their focus. The process for almonds is a good example of this.
The first challenge with almonds, the removal of foreign material, hull and shell, is one the huller-sheller typically deal with. A highly detailed inspection isn’t needed at this initial stage, but it is desirable to sort out the bigger pieces of unwanted material, hull, sticks and shells, and to do this at a fast rate. The machine best suited to this task is the TOMRA 3C, a free-fall machine capable of sorting more than 20 tons of nuts per hour. This eliminates foreign materials, including hull, stone, shell, stick, and all the most common defects, with an incredible efficiency of 99.5%+ purity.
A second check for foreign materials and kernels is made when the almonds reach the processor - and the more that’s sorted out at this early stage, the less there will be to do later. This next task is handled by TOMRA’s Ixus Bulk sorter, a belt machine capable of unrivaled throughput. The Ixus employs the latest x-ray and imaging technology to detect and eject materials such as stones, glass, rocks, and high-density plastics.
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