In this blogpost, we interviewed our IQF vegetables expert Alejandro Palacios Valencia. We discussed 5 burning questions in the industry:
1. What are the current challenges the industry is facing?
The IQF Vegetables have seen a few new trends emerge that look like they will stick around for the days to come. Supermarkets are now demanding a higher standard from producers and this can prove difficult without the right equipment on the line.
In the last year, we have seen new types of defects arise that are now priorities for supermarkets amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Foreign bodies and materials marked the beginning of this trend and with the similarity in color, shape, and size these extraneous vegetable matters are harder to detect. Without the proper equipment, the toxic and dangerous EVM's can sneak their way in with the harvest. It is a very labor-intensive process already, with many stages involved, and for that reason, processors are investing more in sorters that can increase food safety and the efficiency of the workforce.
Another trend that is now gaining popularity is mixed produce being sold together at a value price. With supermarkets looking for higher quality products, they are also looking for new ways to market them, enter the mixed prepackaged product. These packages are quick and easy solutions for lunches and dinners with very little fuss involved in the process. It has proven difficult in the past to process and package mixed products, but advances in technology have made this as easy as pressing a button.
2. How do they relate to the context of our world today?
The farming industry has had trouble finding laborers in recent years with inflation of labor costs. Additionally, current safety guidelines in place to slow the spread of the virus have made it even more difficult. Many seasonal farmworkers have gone back to their home countries to avoid restrictions at the border and are experiencing limitations in travel possibilities.
In Spain, there is an increase in the production and demand for different products and mixes (even in the time of the COVID-19 virus). Other producers have seen a slight reduction in things that were not commonly selling in the past but are still producing similar lines to follow closely with demand.
3. Are there any opportunities hiding beyond the challenges?
A good example of opportunities hiding in the challenge can be found in Spain. When the virus started, TOMRA Food closed on a project of 11 machines that replaced older TOMRA machines and those of the competition. The customer went with TOMRA because we could offer something different, something new. With the technology of BSI+ (Biometrical Signature Identification) found in the Nimbus sorter, customers can see visual spectrums, use infrared with 32 channels, and can increase the contrast between different vegetables. This allows operators to easily create databases in a library for individual, and mixed products while maintaining the new standards of quality.
With TOMRA’s BSI+ technology creating greater contrast between products, there is an increased safety that comes with a reduction in false rejects.
4. How can TOMRA help their customers unlock these opportunities?
With increased standards and more options mandated by supermarkets, TOMRA Food's sorting solutions can help producers meet and exceed the increasing requirements while simplifying the process and maximizing output. As the limitations in the workforce are not going away anytime soon it is paramount that producers maximize their operational efficiency.
5. What potential lies ahead in the upcoming years?
Looking to the future, the trend of mixed vegetables and the higher standard for products will not be going away. This time has shown us the importance of having safe food on our plates and simple solutions for our busy lives. Being able to adapt to the new standard of heightened expectations is a must for producers and certainly worth the investment.