With the world facing up to feeding almost 10 billion people by 2050, new joint venture Global Pac Technologies has launched a hi-tech automated robotic apple packer to help meet the global challenges of processing increasing quantities of fresh produce.
Global Pac also has a wider mandate to seek out new technologies that will assist the fresh produce processing industry worldwide.
New Zealand firm Jenkins Group has joined forces with US-based Van Doren Sales to sell the packer into the global market under a new JV GlobalPac Technologies.
The first product, the Aporo packer, was developed by New Zealand agritech business Robotics Plus.
Van Doren Sales President Bret Pittsinger says Global Pac has the ability to move quickly on solutions that could have global implications.
“The combined efforts and communication between our businesses will allow us to stay close to the customer and react quickly. There is a major opportunity to reduce some of the pressures on production for the global apple packing industry, and in other fresh fruit and produce sectors,” says Pittsinger.
He says they are seeing an incredible shift towards automated operations in the packhouse sector, as the industry is struggling to get the people to get fresh produce to market.
“Global Pac will be focusing on automation and data analytics platforms to help our clients worldwide,” says Pittsinger.
The market for fresh fruit alone has grown by almost four percent on average in volume across the world in the past decade, according to data from Rabobank published earlier this year in Fresh Plaza magazine. While the growth in relatively mature North American and European markets was about one percent, the rest of the world experienced much stronger growth, mostly due to higher populations and increasing prosperity.
Cameron McInness (pictured), a director of Jenkins Group, adds that an increasing number of countries are promoting the recommendations of the WHO, 5+ A Day and other organisations, to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables.
“There’s a global shortage of workers within the horticultural and other food processing sectors,” he says. “Labour is at the core of it, whether it’s the availability, cost or reliability of workers in what can be very seasonal employment. These are often very repetitive jobs and new technology can help processors to redeploy their people to more satisfying and higher value jobs within the industry.”
The Aporo packer, which identifies and places the apples in their trays, has the ability to safely handle up to 120 fruit per minute, the equivalent of two peoples’ output. A number of Robotics Plus packers have already been installed, with more on the way, in commercial post-harvest operators in New Zealand and the US.
Van Doren Sales, a leading manufacturer of automated container and fruit handling equipment in the Northwest of the US, is a 70-year-old business. The company is headquartered in Washington State, which accounts for 66 percent of total US apple production of about 4.7 million tonnes annually.
Jenkins Group has a history going back 136 years in providing innovative end-to-end packaging and labeling solutions for the fresh produce industry. Jenkins Group subsidiaries have been licensed by Global Pac to distribute the technology in Australasia.
The two companies have had a working relationship for more than 20 years and McInness says the US company is recognised globally as the market leader in packhouse automation and was the logical partner.
“And like us, they are a family company, which takes a longterm view of investment. We are driven by our customers’ needs and not just trying to innovate for innovation’s sake.”