Optical sorter turbo charges Limpopo macadamia production

Macridge, a well-established macadamia processor in Limpopo’s Soutpansberg Mountains, has taken its production to new levels thanks to an investment in advanced sorting technology.

The company opted to partner with Belgium’s TOMRA Sorting Solutions to increase throughput as well as to achieve higher product quality. But first, some background…

Macridge is owned by Phillip Potgieter (below), a man with a real passion for his products and the people connected to it.

Macridge Potgieter“We have over 80 growers supplying products to us, while our own production makes up about ten percent of the total. We process the nuts by drying, cracking and then separating the shell from the kernel, and completing a quality sort on the kernels. After that, we wash and dry the kernel before final packing and distribution.”

Working six days a week, Potgieter and his team are enjoying buoyant interest from the local market, as well as those in China, Europe and America, for these wonderful nuts.

The factory output includes value-added lines such as pressing macadamia oil, roasting the nuts, as well as manufacturing bio-diesel for use in the company’s vehicles and tractors.

Quality challenges

Potgieter explains that an ongoing processing issue is the quality of the macadamias. “This is a big challenge for the whole industry. The quality of the macadamias has a significant effect on our actual throughput, but also incurs great revenue loss for our growers. That’s why we started to be more selective about the nuts we receive, and how we choose to process and market them, all based on quality.”

Macridge sorterIt was through another nut processor that Potgieter found out about TOMRA (left) and its laser sorting capabilities.

“We were impressed with the initial visit from the TOMRA representatives, their presentation and focus on our specific requirements. Being able to actually view a laser sorter in operation at another processing plants in our area was very impressive,” he says.

“We saw how the machine could achieve greater accuracy and accommodate our specific sorting requirements. The fact that the TOMRA Helius could do this easily and effectively, while maintaining throughput, was a real asset.

“I believe the TOMRA technology that is more effective and efficient than any offered by competitors. The machine is capable of sorting across a diverse cross section of the product, and in our case, it is ideal to the task at hand,’ he adds.

“It provides a dynamic range of programming preferences and online setting options to fine-tune its sorting capabilities. Further, it is extremely user-friendly, easy to maintain,  and versatile, but most importantly, its high sorting efficiency and impressive capacity – approximately two tons per hour – has us sold.”

Increased throughput by 140%

After installing Tthe OMRA’s Helius, Macridge increased our throughput and production by 140 percent and reduced labour count by 32 people (2011: 716 tons NIS [nuts in shell] processed; 2014: 1 400 tons NIS processed).

“We are able to sort products far more efficiently, which were previously sorted by hand. This, in turn, has had a direct effect on the volumes recovered and the financial value of the product. It’s an investment that’s already paying significant dividends,” Potgieter concludes.