TOMRA Brings Technology Closer to the Customer

TOMRA brought its latest innovations to Anuga FoodTech and introduced its customers to solutions that blend technology and know-how to create a high level of accuracy and quality. We sat down with Louis Meeùs, area sales manager, TOMRA to discuss the company’s latest innovations and the relationship with customers.

“It’s very good to be here again, we see that it’s important to be here after everything that happened after COVID-19, to reconnect with the customer,” says Louis Meeùs. “We see smiles, we can shake hands, in those terms it’s very good and we need to be here. Also, everybody is here, all the main players, so this shows the interest and the importance of Anuga FoodTech.”

In terms of innovations, the company brought several of its high-performing machines. “We have the TOMRA 5C, a sorting machine for IQF vegetables, for seeds, nuts, and processed foods. We have an X-ray sorting machine with deep learning and artificial intelligence. It’s more than just an X-ray, the machine will learn through the process – it’s food, so it’s grown in the fields, every year the weather has an impact on it, so the machine will react on the final product as well,” Louis Meeùs explains.

The TOMRA 5C was launched a few weeks before Anuga FoodTech, at Food Logistica Berlin, and generated a lot of interest among manufacturers. By locating the TOMRA 5C on the processing line between the IQF tunnel and the packing station, final checks for food safety and product quality can be made with unrivaled accuracy, according to a press release. As the frozen product reaches the end of the line for bagging, the sorter recognizes and removes any remaining foreign material, extraneous vegetable matter (EVM), and hard-to-detect product defects, such as stems and stalks with green beans and nightshade with peas. These detection capabilities greatly reduce the risks of consumer complaints or product recalls – already a vital requirement, and one that is harder to meet with organically-grown fruit and vegetables, which typically get delivered to processing lines containing more unwanted materials such as insects, rodents, and EVM.

As well as protecting brand reputations, the TOMRA 5C’s state-of-the-art technologies deliver other operational advantages, according to company representatives. Compared to its highly effective predecessor, the Nimbus BSI, this new machine further enhances sorting efficiency and yields; is easier to keep running in optimum condition; has a more hygienic design which reduces cleaning time by about 35% compared to the Nimbus, and has a capacity that’s greater by 5-10%. The TOMRA 5C was first introduced in 2020 to sort Dried Fruit and Nuts but was designed from the outset for many different applications, including IQF Vegetables and Fruit. This machine is now being made available for IQF lines following tests with one central IQF vegetable processor in the US and another in Europe.

The company’s Anuga FoodTech stand also featured the TOMRA INSIGHTS, a hub that connects all sorters in one processing line. This helps accuracy and brings new ways to improve the line and final products, according to Louis Meeùs.

Customers visiting TOMRA could experience all these products through a demo center, connected to the headquarters in Belgium, where some products could be run to see how the sorters are working.

“We went to the fifth gear to put this in motion quickly,” said Louis Meeùs when referring to the creation of remote digital centers that would enable more long-distance control. “It was already on our mind, but we had to accelerate it. There are always hiccups during new processes, but we could improve it and are now proud to say that it is a success.”

In terms of after-sales services, Louis Meeùs says TOMRA tries to be closer to the customer in the local markets. “We have our headquarters in Belgium, our production sites in Slovakia, so that’s at least two after-sales points. One season of fruit can be very short, so if we cannot react very fast, one year of business might be lost. So we need to be there for them, we can’t afford to say <We’ll be there in one week>. We have to be there within a few hours.”

The next edition of Anuga FoodTech will be held March 19-22, 2024 at Kolnmesse.