FRESHBERRY is a Russian startup producer of wild-growing berries from Karelia. Its products are exported to the EU market, as well as to China and the USA. Due to the feedstock's specifics and to ensure stable high quality of the final product, the company has purchased TOMRA Food's advanced sorting machines. They enable the output of products with high added value, being in stable demand among foreign customers.
FRESHBERRY was founded in 2019 with its production facilities located in Pryazhinsky District of the Republic of Karelia. The enterprise is engaged in collecting, procurement, processing, and selling wild-growing berries: blueberries, cranberries, cowberries, and cloudberries. In March 2020, the company put in service an automated line for cleaning blueberries, cranberries and cowberry.
During the rest of the current year, the enterprise plans to produce about 6,000 tons of berries, with up to 95% being exported to the EU countries, China and the USA. The company obtained the FSSC 22000 certificate confirming compliance of its production processes with international quality standards, safety of the produced food products and traceability all the way to feedstock suppliers.
Two TOMRA Food optical sorters were integrated into the production line for cleaning berries: Helius and Blizzard.
Quality sorting is the key to profitability
When selecting a supplier of the process line for cleaning berries, FRESHBERRY evaluated the offers of the four largest integrators. Two proposals suggested the use of TOMRA optical sorters. Furthermore, the analysis of production lines of other companies engaged in processing wild-growing berries showed that TOMRA equipment is de facto an industry benchmark.
"We initially planned to purchase the most advanced and efficient line as the key to the future success," said Vladimir Romanchuk, General Director of FRESHBERRY, "Besides, the quality of the local feedstock should be taken into account, as for many reasons the volume of foreign matters actually amounts to 3% on average of the entire volume of incoming feedstock. Meanwhile, we aim to produce first-grade berries, which require less than 1% of foreign matters in the final product volume. Thus, the role of efficient sorting can hardly be overestimated."
The FRESHBERRY production line includes the following stages. The feedstock, frozen berries, pass the feed hopper and enters the vibrating screen through the crusher, where the bulk of leaves is removed. Then the feedstock is sent by the screw conveyor to the air separator, which removes sticks and branches, and enters the freezer to freeze the berries finally. At the next stage, the product comes for stemming and then to another air separator and the polisher, which removes the leaves adhered by freezing. Downstream the polisher, there are two TOMRA optical sorters: Helius and Blizzard respectively. The final stage includes filling and packing.
"The main task of the TOMRA sorters is to ensure the stable high quality of the berries," said Vladimir Romanchuk, "Optimal performance for our enterprise is no less than 2 to 2.5 tons of berries per hour: the slower run of the feedstock along the line causes steep escalation of the production costs. Considering the relatively large volume of foreign matters in the feedstock, our TOMRA sorting machines face a really challenging task. Profitability of the entire enterprise strongly depends on their proper work. And they certainly meet the requirements."
Due to individual laser signal transmitters, TOMRA Helius free-fall optical sorters are able to identify any deviations in color and structure in the stream of the quality product. Their powerful pneumatic guns separate the defective product – immature berries and the residual foreign matters after the previous feedstock processing stages – from the quality product with high accuracy.
The Blizzard free-fall sorting unit scans the feedstock stream with pulse LED cameras operating together with multispectral sensors and successfully identifies deviations in color, shape and structure. Pneumatic ejectors expel the foreign matters in milliseconds and pass the quality product for further processing. Within the FRESHBERRY production line, the Blizzard sorter performs final sorting removing residual immature berries, berries of other breed and berries with the stem.
Our priority is the maximum production flexibility
FRESHBERRY expects the delivery of another Blizzard sorting unit. Thus, three optical sorters will be subsequently integrated in the enterprise production line. This is the only case in the Russian market.
"Investments in the most advanced automated sorting are in fact a single option for us," said Vladimir Romanchuk, "All too often, we have to work with berries having the volume of foreign matters up to 5–7% of the entire feedstock volume. Two sorters can ensure output of first-grade products only upon the secondary sorting. However, in order to achieve this, berries have to be finally frozen in the freezer, which results in dramatic growth of the energy costs and, therefore, significant escalation of the production costs. Our calculations show that the necessary quality level for us and our customers will require the integration of another TOMRA Blizzard machine into the line."
Readiness to invest in technologies proves that the FRESHBERRY owners and management have the long-term development strategy, as well as the desire to build the most flexible production rapidly responding to all market challenges. Even today the world-class process solutions are implemented at the company production site.
In conclusion, Vladimir Romanchuk said, "Perhaps the main advantage of TOMRA Food sorting solutions is that they allow not only for increase of the final product quality, but also for stable maintenance of the target quality level. This is important as this enables us to build the long-term relations with our customers, as well as to develop our business systematically and thoughtfully."