A more serene harvest with the optical potato sorter

“The optical sorter gives me comfort and flexibility during harvest. » Farmer in SCEA in Auzebosc, in Seine-Maritime, Arnaud Lecouteux began his 2022 harvest in a more serene way. This potato producer, who stores all of his production on the farm, has been equipped with a Downs CropVision optical sorter since this year. “ The throughput offered by this machine may make me think that I may be over-equipped, but I had no choice anymore”, says the farmer. For several years, Arnaud Lecouteux has indeed faced a chronic shortage of seasonal labor for the sorting operation potatoes, this despite a work organization per half-day of 6 hours (so as not to have too long working days) and a very moderate requirement on productivity. “Last year, during the two harvest months, we recorded multiple resignations from the four sorting positions (two in the morning, two in the afternoon).laments Arnaud Lecouteux. And often without notice. We were starting a harvest day and we found ourselves with no one to sort the potatoes. » The SCEA had to call on Polish labour, which had to be housed, to complete the campaign.

Invest in equipment to compensate for the lack of manpower

This critical situation called into question the equipment strategy. In the absence of manpower, I made the choice to buy large and large »summarizes Arnaud Lecouteux. The two trailed harvesters gave way to a three-row Dewulf Kwatro self-propelled used, which lends itself well to the six-row planter. SCEA has integrated the Downs CropVision optical sorter into a digger with a 20 ton hopper capacity. “When the driver starts emptying the 24-ton dumpster, he only waits 5 minutesthe time that the first three boxes are filled before leavingappreciates Arnaud. In the previous organization, the driver had to stay for half an hour. The 12 tonne hopper on the self-propelled, compared to the hoppers with 7 to 8 tonnes of autonomy on the two previous machines, gives flexibility to the field. Finally, the capacities of the hoppers at the reception and on the self-propelled allow me to save on a tractor-tipper assembly with its driver. And I save a second driver at harvest (one machine instead of two). »

Fourteen months of salary saved with the optical sorter

But the biggest labor saving is in the CropVision optical sorter. The device offers a sorting quality without comparison with manual operators, which is also constant throughout the day. “Before, at four, we passed 35 tonnes per hour in tight flow. Today we pass 50 tons for two without stressappreciates Arnaud Lecouteux. To obtain the same quality of sorting at this rate, it would take eight people, one of my employees recently pointed out to me. » It is now the driver in charge of the boxes who is the limiting factor in the chain. A second operator becomes necessary to exceed 40 tons per hour.

The SCEA has chosen to depreciate the digger-sorter unit over eight years. “By saving fourteen months’ salary on sorting, my return on investment on the sorter (Editor’s note 130,000 to 170,000 euros depending on the equipment) will take place from the fifth year »believes Arnaud Lecouteux.

A tool that transforms the sector

For the potato producer, the sorter offers him a guarantee as to the quality of the production he ships. “Before, when a truck was refused because the sampling had been marked by too high a rot rate, I couldn’t say anything and I had to pay for transport for nothing. Today I can qualify the entire shipment and contest a possible refusal more easily. »

Optical sorting is indeed changing habits in the potato sector. “In some regions, processors bring potatoes passed through the CropVision sorter directly onto the processing line.continues Guillaume Planchon, commercial director of Downs. Similarly, some specialized buyers add 20 euros per tonne to the purchase price for potatoes sorted by the optical sorter. »

The potatoes are dumped into the digger hopper, which gradually raises them to a presentation conveyor, two digging modules and a double clod separator. the clod separator eliminates 90% of the clods and stones contained in the sub-caliber. The small size potatoes are collected and put back into the circuit upstream of the optical sorter, via a Ring-type conveyor. In the optical sorter, the tubers arrive on rotating spirals, in a lighted and closed chamber, which make the potatoes turn on themselves: each one is photographed between 40 and 50 times. The artificial intelligence system analyzes all of this information and classifies each potato. During the analysis phase, the potatoes are taken to the actual sorting system. This consists of movable fingers, driven by the robot’s artificial intelligence. At the end of the conveyor, the fingers pass the first class potatoes or divert the trajectory of the second class potatoes and the remaining stones and clods, towards two separate circuits. The CropVision is able to distinguish intact and good quality potatoes from misshapen, cut, spoiled, cracked, rotten or green potatoes. A color touch terminal displays cursors for different qualities of potatoes, which the operator adjusts as he wishes : it can thus be more or less severe on each category of potatoes. On the farm of Arnaud Lecouteux, the first class potatoes are taken to a box filler, the second classes (cut, misshapen and green) to a box on the side of the machine: they will be used as feed for the cattle.

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A more serene harvest with the optical potato sorter

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