In the bag

How to pack potatoes perfectly

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Choosing a packhouse system for potatoes can be a daunting task. Automatic or semi automatic weighers? Automatic or manual bagging? Silo size? Do I need an optical grader and sizer as well? All of these questions need to be asked and answered and fortunately Goldpack is on hand to help.

So let’s get down to the basics of potato packhouse systems and discuss potential yields, savings and efficiencies.

The weigher

The weigher is the heart of the pack-house system, as it will determine the speed at which the potatoes can be processed and is capable of a high degree of accuracy when weighing out portions of the product. Goldpack is proud to be the South African agency for prestigious Newtec weighers and can supply machines that are suitable for potatoes and onions (which many farmers plant as an alternative crop). Bringing in a Newtec weigher offers significant and immediate benefits. Firstly, the weigher will eliminate overweight giveaway. Even the most conservative estimates project that manual weighing gives away between 7-10% of a total crop. Over a year that figure can add up to hundreds of thousands of rands.

Let’s take a real example. One of the latest Goldpack installations at VTV Boerdery in Christiana processes up to 210 tonnes of potatoes per day. Over a month, that adds up to 4 620 (22x210) tonnes. Over a year that is approximately 36 960 (8x4620) tonnes. The Newtec weighers ensure that every kilo is weighed accurately. A 7-10% loss would cost VTV Boerdery between 2 587 and 3 696 tonnes of crop per year! Secondly weighers also ensure that crops are processed steadily and quickly and they are not subject to sickness, labour disputes or strikes.

Bagging options

Basically potatoes are bagged in two ways: net or paper, and these options can be configured in-line with a Newtec weigher.

Bagging systems can be manual or automatic. The difference between the systems is the amount of labour required.

For example, a Newtec weighers can be fitted with sack clamps and with sufficient labour, manual bagging can operate as fast as automatic bagging.

VTV Boerdery uses just this method. However, even manual bagging will require a machine stitching system for closing the bag.

However, in situations where labour is scarcer or not suitable, an automatic bagger can take over. All it requires is one person per bagger to load the pallet with the sealed bags. This is the preferred option at Goedemoed at Koppies, another Goldpack installation in the Free State, which processes 128 tonnes per day on Newtec weighers and Emve BE 6000 bagger and stitcher.

The type of bagging chosen will depend on the weight selected. For up to 3kg, net bagging is popular and can be done on Goldpack-supplied Daumar machines, which bag and label simultaneously. This option is especially good for supply to high–end retail stores and works with onions as well.

Weights between 4 and 10kgs can use paper-bagging systems with or without carry handles, depending on the end user market.

Grading

Grading machines can be supplied to grade at various levels from simple sizing to sophisticated and simultaneous optical grading and sizing. The advantage of advanced grading is that it ensures that the crop receives the best possible market prices and protects the reputation of the supplier at all times.

Developing or expanding a pack-house requires expertise and sound advice to ensure that every rand is spent wisely. Goldpack has the expertise to do just that.

Trevor Reardon is the pack-house systems director at Goldpack, which is a major supplier to the South African root crop industry. Based in Durban, he is able to access and supply the most cost effective local and international solutions. Goldpack has a national footprint through branches in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

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