Operating what is described as “the world’s largest automated onion processing line,” MSP Onions in Nieuwdorp, a Netherlands city in the province of Zeeland, is heralding the Eqrader and its technology from Eqraft.
On its website, machinery designer/manufacturer Eqraft introduces the line by saying, “Zeeland is currently the epicenter for onion processing in the Netherlands and the rest of the world. And MSP Onions in Nieuwdorp has the world’s largest automated onion processing line, realized by Eqraft in Emmeloord, with an integrated optical sorter named Eqrader. The line is 40 meters long, with 16 outputs for exactly the right onions in terms of size, color, shape, weight and internal and external quality.”
The site continued, “Eqraft focuses on the agrobulk market for onions and potatoes, with an occasional excursion to the legume market (granules, nuts, peas, seeds, etc.). The company is unique in that it does everything in-house – from engineering to constructing and assembling machines, but also electrical work and software – so that it can offer its customers a total solution.
“Eqraft’s markets are located around the world wherever labor is scarce or expensive, such as the US West Coast, New Zealand and Australia.”
It added, “‘Wages are rising there, and that makes manual sorting more expensive and increases the need for automation. We used to be too expensive but now we’re much more affordable,’ says Rutger Keurhorst, Commercial Manager and also responsible for sales engineering.”
Describing the line, the site said, “The Eqrader gives customers the option of sorting their onions on item level, such as by internal quality.”
Keurhorst noted, “If a product has been on a ship from the Netherlands to Indonesia for six weeks, you want to know up front that it will pass inspection on arrival. Added to that, the quality of manual sorting isn’t as good as it used to be, especially as volumes and operating hours increase. While quality, warranty, and traceability are becoming more and more important for customers.”
The upshot, Eqraft said, is that customers receive “a completely different spectrum of sorting options. For example, an optical sorter can select on the basis of external quality, size and shape, color, internal quality, and weight.”
Keurhorst said, “You can extract a perfectly round onion in a certain millimeter class from a batch of 500 tons to guarantee that extremely high-quality bar packaging in the supermarket. Or onions with some weathering on the outside but otherwise good, which are suitable for distant destinations because the outer skin falls off anyway during transport.”
The site said, “The shortest Eqrader has six outputs, but the number is basically endless and is just a matter of making the machine longer. To determine the quality, the machine uses a self-learning system that combines data.”
And, Keurhorst added, “There are six cameras per position for the greatest possible overlap: photograph one side of the onion, tilt it out, photograph the other side. Thanks to infra-red technology, the Eqrader also detects rot inside the onion, starting from 2 percent of the bulb volume. Something that the human eye cannot see but that’s crucial for quality.”
The “simpler flow” of the largest Eqrader allows five people to run the factor at full capacity, and the site noted that the only forklifts on-site are there to load trucks.
Keurhorst said, “We’ve analyzed the entire logistics flow. We ultimately opted for a three-layer factory with a simpler flow. That means that the onions require a shorter route. After receipt, they go up once, and then only down – gentle product handling – until they arrive on the pallet. Forty years of experience in sorting and packing onions, combined with new technologies, has led to flexibility on the line and short changeover times thanks to live data about the product. You can change the complete production line with just one mouse click.”
And, since launching the Eqrader in September 2020, “MSP Onions has been discovering all the possibilities on a daily basis,” the site said. “In April, we had got so far that customers were able to say which type of onion they wanted and we could guarantee 100 percent quality with not a single wrong onion in the batch. That was the biggest benefit, a guarantee on exports.”
“It allowed us to grow counter-cyclically in the low season while the entire sector was slowing down,” said Lindert Moerdijk, sales director at MSP Onions. “Traditionally I would have needed around seventy people but now I can double the capacity of the sorter with one man. As you can imagine, that has huge commercial benefits.”
Many thanks to Eqraft for supplying the MSP Onions photo gallery.
For more information about “Building your Factory for the Future”, contact your area Eqraft dealer or agent, https://www.eqraft.com/dealers-agents