Due to their fragile nature, susceptibility to bruising and shorter shelf life, weighing fruit and vegetables has been a longstanding challenge for fresh produce packers, with high giveaway prevalent.

In an effort to reduce waste, which according to advisory body WRAP equates to 100,000 tonnes, and 11% of avoidable manufacturing food waste[1], flexible packing specialist ILAPAK has designed an innovative linear weigher featuring ‘softer’ handling technology and vibration channels to help eliminate produce damage and promote best practice.

Offering an alternative weighing option to rival vibratory systems, which are usually dedicated to a particular product, the new Weightronic 1200 SF weigher can switch easily between fruit and vegetable items like small potatoes, apples, citrus fruits and onions.

“Many retailers are removing loose fruit and veg due to shoppers rummaging through trays to select the ‘best’ looking produce, leading to higher spoilage and waste” notes Tony McDonald, Director of Sales and Marketing at ILAPAK. “Consequently, fresh produce packers are seeking systems that integrate a gentler weighing and a filling line that can accommodate different retail tray configurations, for example, four apples, six jacket potatoes or a twin pack of kiwi fruits.”

For seasonal packers that switch regularly between different types and sizes of products the flexibility is a real benefit. “Rather than being limited to one product type, the Weightronic 1200 SF enables manufacturers to widen their packing operations and flex to seasonal fresh produce demands,” adds Tony.

Quick changes can be performed on the vibratory channels and distribution plates in just a matter of minutes, to accommodate different product shapes, sizes and weights

Gentle handling and product integrity is assured thanks to special Soft Fill design features like minimised drops, adapted collector bins and vibratory channels. Additionally, weighing buckets are arranged in a linear manner for low drop heights.

Accurate weighing also helps to eliminate another waste source – product giveaway, which in turn helps to maximise profits for fresh produce packers. “Packing regulations for pre-packed fresh produce can be somewhat confusing, especially for exporters to Europe,” adds Tony. “Many today pack to the average weight system rather than minimum weight in order to avoid hefty fines.”

Those that do pack to minimum weight will typically overfill by several percent in order to comply with legislation. However, this inevitably eats into already tight profit margins, with large production runs magnifying the loss even further. Such giveaway also increases distribution and airfreight costs.

With 12 linear weighing heads, the system is capable of accurately weighing up to 28 portions a minute. What’s more, the Weightronic 1200 SF has been engineered for ease of cleaning and robustness – two key criteria when handling fresh fruit and veg.

To prevent the accumulation of dirt and debris, the unit features an open, stainless steel, self-draining frame, quick change distribution plates and 45° sloping surfaces. The system also uses high speed stainless steel load cells, eliminating the chances of corrosion in damp environments.

For ease of maintenance, ILAPAK can supply the complete weighing and packing line, pairing the 12-head linear weigher with a tray denester, filling station and a flow wrapper system.