Pinguin invested in three Manta 2000 series sorters from Key Technology for processing spinach and green beans.




Pinguin, a member of the PinguinLutosa Food Group, Ontario, Canada, invested in three Manta 2000 series sorters from Key Technology for processing spinach and green beans.

“These will be the first Manta systems for frozen spinach production in Belgium. Sorting wet spinach after washing is a new application that offers tremendous quality and yield improvements compared to sorting prior to washing. With Manta, Pinguin is establishing a new, higher quality standard for frozen spinach,” says Tim Lobdell, managing director of Key Technology BV, the company’s European operation.

“Pinguin is investing €17,000,000 in its facility in Westrozebeke, Belgium, to adopt the latest technologies to maximize product quality and assure the highest food safety standards. This investment includes, in its first phase, a new production line with a new freezing tunnel and the latest optical sorting technology,” says Hans Luts, managing director at Pinguin. “During the project, we analyzed the different technologies available for maximizing foreign material and defect removal, and we selected Key’s Manta with confidence.”

Pinguin will process spinach during Belgium’s six- to eight-week harvest and process green beans the reminder of the year. The Manta 2000 series sorter features a two-meter wide scan area that allows it to sort up to 5 tons of spinach per hour and up to 16.5 tons of green beans per hour.

Key Technology designed Pinguin’s Manta with top-mounted color cameras and lasers and bottom-mounted Vis/IR (visible infrared) cameras to maximize detection capabilities for both spinach and green beans. Two-sided viewing finds foreign material hiding under spinach leaves to maximize product quality and food safety. To reduce the yield loss traditionally associated with bottom-mounted cameras, Manta features valve activity tracking that detects product on viewing windows and automatically activates an integrated clean-in-place system to clear the window without operator assistance, allowing the sorter to continue operating at peak performance.

“Historically, the vast majority of frozen spinach has not been sorted, which poses serious product quality and food safety risks. A few processors have tried to sort prior to washing due to the challenges of handling wet spinach after washing. The problem with sorting prior to washing is that muddy leaves are rejected because the sorter ‘sees’ surface mud as a defect, which creates a yield loss of up to 7% that is unacceptable to most processors” says Lobdell. “By solving the product handling challenges associated with wet spinach, Key now enables sorting after washing, which reduces the yield loss to less than 2%. This is acceptable to processors who benefit from dramatically reducing the risk of foreign material in their product and customer complaints.”