CUTTING-EDGE WEIGHER SOLVES SALAD PROCESSOR’S WOES The company, which grows and sells baby leaf salad ingredients – such as rocket, spinach and mesculin – along with small vegetables and herbs to the higher-end food service industry, was working overtime to package up leafy salad materials in 1kg and 3kg bags, and the task was very labour intensive. 18 APRIL 2017 Walker knew the 12 or so workers toiling five days a week to hand pack were not sustainable and making sure each package was accurately weighed was also a challenge during production at the 17-year-old plant located on 227ha and employing more than 80 staff. “We knew we had to reduce labour and get consistency in the packaging,” Walker remembers. “We needed the packaging to be better-looking and professional. Salad vegetables such as baby leaf are very hard products to pack and control. Delivery is also time critical, so we knew that what we needed was pretty complicated.” Before doing anything else, Walker did some research on the different companies that could build and supply the automation. Timing was crucial, as the baby leaf product has a 10-to-11 day ‘best by’ window, and technology was needed to suit the modified atmosphere of the plant – down to freezing – and be able to print date of packaging and ‘best before’ details, reduce spoilage and increase throughput. That was where Wedderburn came in. Walker had some knowledge of the company through businesses he’d seen the company complete in Australia, and he also knew the company had representatives in Hamilton and technicians available at all times. Wedderburn managing director Vernon Herbert takes up the story. “Pricing, options, specifications, floor space and drawings – that all took time but we needed to analyse conditions that the machinery would be working in,” he says. “It is cold and air conditioned, but we overcame any hurdle and started the process of building what Southern Fresh Foods needed.” Southern Fresh Foods operations manager Peter Walker had an issue. Business was booming for the Hautapu-based company located in a picturesque rural setting close to Hamilton, but it was clear automation was needed in order to stay ahead of demand. “We knew we had to reduce labour and get consistency in the packaging,” AUTOMATION Southern Fresh automate their fresh produce packaging plant with Paxiom Systems from Wedderburn NZ.
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