Seed producer KWS Sementes based in Patos de Minas, Minas Gerais, is making further significant investments in its seed processing units. With the aim of increasing product quality, the company did not hesitate and chose TOMRA Food to automate its production lines. Seed production is in KWS Sementes’ DNA. It is a company that innovates constantly and, last year, it inaugurated an extension to its plant, which was the first to introduce a horizontal model in the sorting process.
Part of Germany-based KWS, the fourth largest seed producer in the world, KWS Brazil is mainly focused on the corn seed market, although its product range also includes soybean and sorghum varieties. The company established its Brazilian operations in 2012, in Minas Gerais, and has since consolidated its position in the country’s seed production market. It stands out for the genetic improvement which enables it to cover all the main environments in Brazil. With its extensive genetic bank, it offers a complete portfolio capable of meeting the needs of all regions in the country.
In 2019, Brazil became the largest corn exporter in the world, even overtaking the United States, with 44.9 million tons shipped – an 88% increase compared to the previous year. It is one of the most important crops in the country and, with this exponential increase in exports, the quality of the product has become increasingly important. As a result, local producers are searching for new technologies to meet the demands of the international markets.
KWS has an annual production of 2 million units of corn, sorghum and soybean seeds in Brazil. The new plant, which was inaugurated in 2019, is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment according to a horizontal model of seed processing, which significantly reduces mechanical damage to the seeds during the sorting process. The company chose TOMRA Food to lead the process in order to guarantee a higher quality sorting.
Edson Rosa, KWS Production Manager, has no doubts: “The TOMRA equipment was installed in a new unit, which had no other equipment, to optimize and automate our processes. The choice made by the company is part of a process of continuous improvement in our machines. The equipment is performing well, and is contributing to the high quality of our corn products, reducing losses and helping to increase production.”
ZEA: a proven quality improvement
Following a detailed analysis of KWS’s processes, TOMRA engineers concluded that the ZEA would be the ideal equipment to increase the quality or the corn seed sorting process. The ZEA is positioned after the thresher, where the corn ears are spread out, aligned and transported by the integrated vibratory system to the acceleration belt that feeds the sorter. The acceleration belt conveys the corn ears to the scanning area, where the sensors sort the corn ears in their entirety. In a few milliseconds, a signal is sent to the positioning system of the selector blades, centered on the exit chute, where they guide the products to different conveyors. The corn ears without straw and in good condition proceed to the production line, while the corn ears with straw are returned to the dispatcher or to another process as defined by the customer. The ZEA machine can also be configured for specific projects to eject foreign materials, imperfections and scraps onto a third conveyor.
João Medeiros, Commercial Manager at TOMRA Food Brazil, who followed the entire project, explain the choice of the ZEA: “it is the ideal machine for in terms of efficiency, quality and cost effectiveness for processors whose ability to separate corn ears with straw and imperfections is fundamental. It is a machine with excellent cost-benefit ratio and built to last, which is what customers always look for.”
According to Edson Rosa, the ZEA not only delivers a proven increase in quality, but also “the reduction of losses during the process, which guarantees greater quantity and quality of the product.” The KWS Production Manager goes a step further and explains the process: “We have a plant for processing our materials. The TOMRA machine is installed in the receiving section. In this way, the corn ears with straw is received, threshed and then sorted, with the ears with straw are separated to be returned to the dispatchers or fed back into the system to repeat the process.”
For Edson Rosa, the choice of TOMRA Food has turned out to be very profitable. He explains his satisfaction: “today we have a higher yield compared to our previous process. We have reduced fatigue for our employees and improved their quality of life – and this is our priority. The ZEA equipment has excellent quality. It is perfectly integrated into our plant, in addressing losses in the process and delivering greater product quality. Automation is the path we have taken in our pursuit of our high quality standards, and TOMRA, with its history, was the natural choice to lead the process.”
For his part, João Medeiros highlights the fact that the ZEA machine “featuring optical color and Near Infrared (NIR) sensors installed at the top and bottom of the equipment, provides an unobstructed view on all sides of the product. The entire surface of each item is easily scanned and analyzed, generating the high-quality rating we are seeing at KWS Brazil.” These technical features have allowed the company to achieve good results, and “this is always what we strive to do: add value at different phases of the process,” he concluded.
Maintenance and service support unique on the market
When evaluating the whole process, João Medeiros has no doubts: "Customer satisfaction will always be our priority, and we are confident that our technology and equipment can make a difference in the Brazilian market." The Commercial Manager of TOMRA Food Brazil explains that there is no “generic recipe”, but a tailored approach throughout the process for each customer. The aim is “to start from an in-depth understanding of the customer's needs in order to design the best solution, availing ourselves of TOMRA’s ample portfolio of technologies and equipment.”
João Medeiros points out that, in the specific case of KWS, " the ZEA was the right choice, and the results clearly bear this out. Our goal is to always grow with our customer." This is the reason for the importance of TOMRA's after-sales service and maintenance support, which is unique on the market and makes all the difference to the customer.
Edson Rosa agrees: “we have carried out preventive maintenance of the equipment in the off-season, so that impacts on production are minimized. TOMRA has also ensured the availability of a support team close to our plant in order to guarantee a faster service in case of any unforeseen event during the process.”