The Jenkins Freshpac Systems team were lucky enough to spend some time over “the ditch” as we attended the annual Hort Connections event in Brisbane. The theme was “Halving waste and doubling productivity by the year 2030” – an ambitious goal, but achievable if we’re “all in” as an industry.
From my perspective (somewhat selfishly), in the long run, achieving this will have to involve investment in new technologies and yet-to-be-realised levels of automation. And it was very apparent that many industry suppliers thought it pertinent to upgrade their displays, footprints and demonstrations in this area. In a noticeable trend across regional (and international) trade shows, the space dedicated to automation, equipment and machinery continues to increase.
I think the challenge for any brain-stormer, manufacturer or agency in the business of supplying automation is how to make a functional piece of “kit” as smart as possible - at scale. The reality of the situation is that we’re all trying to generalise a mechanical process (as much as possible) to suit the variety and unpredictability of one very fickle customer – Mother Nature! No single example of Jazz apple, Zespri kiwifruit, Flattos peach or Perla potato are the same. Fresh produce are the non-conformists of the shopping aisles and, despite their health and nutritional benefits, they refuse to adhere to any broad convention.
Ideally, in the long run, there’d be a bespoke piece of equipment that:
- Retro-fits into any packing or export facility;
- Allows full automation of the majority of steps involved to get loose product into its final packaged state;
- Provides a <2 year payback;
- Uses 100% biodegradable/recyclable/compostable (you pick one) consumables that are also durable and sustainable;
- Allowed this same process to be performed across multiple products/SKUs and grades;
- Was “Plug & play”;
- Required zero maintenance;
- Made you a coffee.
And, although futile, I continue to keep an eye out for such a solution!
My recommendation is to keep abreast of all options and decide what level of investment is worth having a “crack” at. In the words of a current user of JFS-supplied robotic technology “new tech is never perfect, and my expectations were higher than usual for this, and they’ve been superseded”.
We don’t promise we’ll get it perfect, but we promise we’ll sure try!