OTA announces latest developments on Optical Grader

On June 23, the Onion Tech Alliance (OTA) held its annual meeting for all users of onion sorting machines.


This year, the meeting was held at innovative processing company Axel Månsson A/S in Brande, Denmark. This company also has a two-lane optical sorting system, the (further) developments could therefore be discussed extensively in a relaxed and constructive atmosphere around the machine.

Earlier this year OTA decided to release an improved version of the optical onion sorting machine. The day started with a presentation by Rutger Keurhorst from Qreenno, who gave an update on the current situation and developments in the market and the further development of OTA’s optical onion sorting machine. After a lively round of discussions, the points for improvement and wishes for the future put forward by current operators were dilated upon. Input from processors is needed to further develop elementary improvements.

Besides Qreenno, Modesta and ERC from OTA, Microtec and Sacmi were also present. This created a good sounding board for testing user experience and points for improvement. “The current generation of electronic sorting machines consists of roughly three elements: mechanics, sensing technology, and data processor,” says Keurhorst. “By developing the machines within OTA, and by having them built by ERC, we can combine years of experience in the onion sector and a bit of Dutch thoroughness with the input of existing users as an improvement to the mechanics. The sensing technology is working properly, and we are pleased that we can continue to rely on existing specialists for that. The largest improvement soon to be noticed for the end user, however, will be in data processing. The integration of the different analysis technologies in a system should make it much easier for the user, but, moreover, should also increase accuracy and repeatability of the machine.”

The sorting machine has a number of integrated cleaning positions for optimally removing loose skins and dust with the help of active air flows and dust suction from the Modesta Blowerbeam. “For many existing systems, this technology was added later, but because of our cooperation, we can now integrate it seamlessly,” according to Diederick Kloppenburg from Modesta. Besides, the different optical positions, camera and NIR receive an overpressure system that guarantees a good performance because of its clean, internal environment and lack of dust. The cameras will have, and continue to have, a picture of the product as clear as possible because of this. This increases the quality of the supplied data significantly. 

The entire process is automatically analysed by the new software according to parameters set up by the user. The software is self-learning and will eventually be able to modify its sorting configuration largely on its own. The exits of the machine are fitted with ‘fall breakers’ fitted with detection systems, which do not just break the onions’ fall gently, but also make sure the filling belt is stopped when crates have reached their desired weight. The machine also has a recycling circuit in order to, for example, not let fallen products go to waste. They will be put through the sorter a second time. 

“The largest improvement soon to be noticed for the end user will be in data processing”


Finally, there was news in the field of service. The new machine has been further developed in such a way that many parts are backwards compatible. This means that as many as possible new and improved parts can be applied to existing installations. Spare parts still have to be ordered from individual manufacturers now. OTA wants to change this is as soon as possible: in future one address will offer both service and spare parts.

OTA is confident that this sorting machine and the path now started on are the next steps on the way to further automation, traceability and better performances in the sector. “The sorting machine already had the best technology available. We are now equipping this with the latest innovations as well,” says Diederick Kloppenburg.

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