Vegetable producer Drysdales has installed a new automated sprout packing line, trying to cope with predicted labour shortages faced by the horticultural sector. As well as swede and leeks the company growers some 900 acres of sprouts each year, making the largest grower of the crop in Europe, and it is also the largest peeler, with an automatic sprout peeling line.
The upgraded packing line features a UniPAKer robot from Brillopak to provide automated crate packing. Drysdales’ farming and facilities director, Ian McLachlan, told HortNews: “No-one else is using a machine like this to pack sprouts into crates; this investment fits with our business philosophy of harnessing innovation in farming and production methods in order to stay at the top of our game and deliver the best quality produce and service to our customers."
"On all of our lines we were relying on manual labour to pack bags of sprouts into crates. However, with Brexit, we foresee a potential labour issue. The time was right to invest in a machine that could perform this task.”
One of the challenges in automating this part of the operation was the number of possible pack and crate configurations, with Brussels sprouts being supplied in a variety of bag sizes, from 200g up to 500g, and each retailer using their own crate format.