Case Study

Automated Sorting Technology Promotes Growth And Sustainability For A Farming Co-Op

Potato Sorting Solution

For over 50 years, the Nedato cooperative of 500 farmers has been producing quality potatoes to customers across the world. The cooperative has grown into a sustainable, customer-focused, innovative and cooperative potato organization worldwide. This case study tells the story of how the Nedato cooperative implemented automated sorting technology to boost the quality of its product and foster growth.

Today, Nedato is a large sales and packaging organization that annually sells 250,000 tons of potatoes to the processing industry in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, and packs about 100,000 tons in different packages for the home-market and for export.

By holding onto a number of important principles, Nedato has been able to continuously grow within the industry and the key to this success is down to the bond between the potato and the grower.

Nedato is an innovative organization and this is reflected in the policy of production optimization, corporate philosophy, registration and monitoring of quality data and the deployment of the latest technologies.

Heero Gramsma, managing director at Nedato, explains: “We are continuously looking into improving the quality of our potatoes and recently felt the time was right to invest in innovative technologies to update our existing grading lines.

“It’s a quite simple story. TOMRA Sorting Food is a very well-known brand to French fries producers. We had heard that the company was able to successfully sort out clods, with barely any good product loss, which is something we know that the competition is unable to do – it was this capability that caught our attention.

“When we were given the opportunity to make a visit to potato processor, Hof Trumann, in Germany, who had recently installed a TOMRA Halo sorting machine, we didn’t hesitate. After seeing all the impressive technology in action, we immediately knew that we had to update our own processing lines. We explained our requirements to the TOMRA team, and it soon became clear that TOMRA’s Field Potato Sorter 2400 (FPS) was the right sorting machine for us.”

“Based on the quality and the capacity of TOMRA’s FPS sorting machine, our mind was made up.” - Heero Gramsma, managing director at Nedato

Heero explains: “At Nedato, quality comes first. The removal of foreign materials such as clods, stones, metal and other sharp objects is extremely important to us, not only for improving our yield, but also for minimizing the mechanical damage to our delicate potato tubers.

“Everything not classed as a potato product can damage its, which is why clods and foreign material must be removed from the processing line as soon as possible. A company’s reputation is essential, so everything must be perfect, especially when the end user is the consumer.

“As well as producing a much cleaner potato product, the potato handling has also become smoother as the drops and drop heights have all improved by applying smaller diameter drive rollers for our conveyors. In addition, the potato miles are kept to an absolute minimum.”

Nedato mainly exports to the European Union and the Middle East. Annually, Nedato supplies 400,000 tons of potatoes to retail, hospitality, food service companies and wholesalers as well as packing and processing, with 250,000 tons going directly into the French fries industry.

Nedato’s offering is extensive as it exports a variety of different potatoes including white and red, potatoes with yellow flesh color, waxy or floury, unwashed, virtually free of soil or totally washed, large or small.

As for service and support, Heero says Nedato has a maintenance contract with TOMRA Sorting Food, so that an FPS expert stops by at regular intervals to optimize its processing lines.

Heero continues: “TOMRA’s service team has provided us with special training courses so that we have been quickly brought up to speed to operate the FPS ourselves.”

“I’m really satisfied with the results of the FPS. We are able to process high potato capacities in a very easy way. On top of that the FPS is a very stable machine also under our severe conditions.” - Heero Gramsma, managing director at Nedato

Heero concludes: “In a world that has become smaller by digitalization, with increasingly stringent requirements for tracking, traceability, food safety and sustainability, we are constantly being required to become more and more flexible to meet the rapidly changing demands of consumers and industry. That’s why Nedato continues to stick to its principles. By remaining innovative, by continuing to respect nature and keeping the needs of the market translated to the grower. Time after time.”