South African fruits exporter Colors Fruit has opened a fruit packaging warehouse on Distillery Road in Paarl, Western Cape, in South Africa. Known as Novo, the plant was built on the site of a previously existing packhouse, which got gutted in an accident in April 2009.

Construction of the new Novo facility was started in December 2009. The packaging house is being developed in two phases. The first phase, phase one, started packaging operations in July 2010.

The plant currently handles apples, apricots, nectarines, peaches, pears and plums. All the fruits are sorted on the same grading line through multiple infeeds.

They are palletised and cooled to a specific temperature for distribution to the domestic and export markets in reefer containers. The pack line has a capacity of 1.5t per packer per standard shift.

Phase two upgrades to the facility are expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2012.

Plant design and facilities

The plant has about 8,500m² of packaging space. The first phase has multifruit packaging lines, two regulated atmosphere cold rooms, a workshop, cold storage rooms, offices and other staff and support facilities.

The cold rooms have a capacity to store 2,664 bins. The advanced technology forced cooling facility requires less time to cool the pallets. It also has cooling and storage units for citrus and grapes.

The facility is designed with a clear floor plan, allowing natural light and ventilation into the interiors through the roof and louvres.

Other sustainable features incorporated include rainwater capture, energy efficiency and intelligent lighting system. The exterior walls are clad in Nutec for insulation and fire resistance properties.

Fruit sorting equipment / packaging technology

"Construction of the new Novo facility was started in December 2009. The packaging house is being developed in two phases."

The Nova packhouse packaging line has a Greefa Europe’s six-lane intelligent quality sorter (iQSIII) fruit sorter system, the first-of-its-kind-in South Africa.

It has been imported from the Netherlands. The iQSIII allows automatic sorting of fruits based on their external quality. It uses colour cameras, special infrared and software analysing techniques for the purpose.

The system provides standard weight grading and distinguishes the fruits based on colour, diameter and defects using cameras. The custom-calibrated equipment has 39 outlets.

The graded fruits are passed on to 36 packaging tables and three gentle bin fillers through rotary feed belts. Five of the pack stations have automated in-line labelling stations. The packaging material is stored in a concrete mezzanine level above the packaging lines.

These bag lines allow free supply of the material through gravity fed chutes. The cartons are made available as needed. It keeps the packaging area clutter free, eliminates monorail systems and increases productivity. The technology allows double the sorting and packaging efficiency than the South African industry norms. It is also environmentally sustainable.

The Greefa system is also being planned to be upgraded with an intelligent Flavour Analyser (iFA) system to determine the internal quality of the fruit. The system will determine the core rot, internal brownness and brix value accurately using near infrared (NIR) analysis.

Phase two of Colors Fruit’s Novo Pack House and contractors involved

Phase two of the Novo packhouse project will add an imported second hand Greefa pre-sorter machine and six additional specialist packaging lines.

"The Nova packhouse packaging line has a Greefa Europe’s six-lane intelligent quality sorter (iQSIII) fruit sorter system, the first in South Africa."

They will pre-sort and package apples based on their colour, size and quality. The facility will have a capacity of producing about 1,000 bins a day. This phase will increase the capacity of the cold rooms to 5,000 bins.

The forced cooling facility capacity will increase from 320 pallets to 560 pallets. A training room, mezzanine decks for packaging material and a cafeteria will be added to the facility. The packhouse aims to increase its contract packaging client base from 42,000 bins to 100,000 bins in 2012.

The main contractor for the Novo packaging warehouse was Murray & Roberts. Element Consulting Engineers was the structural engineer. Johan Wessels was the architect and GEA Projects provided the project management services.

M.E.D. Automation supplied the peripheral packaging equipment, such as carton conveyors and pack sets.

Light Frame Homes, a Lance Dickson Construction subsidiary, completed the erection of insulated infill walls.

The 9mm Nutec board interior walls are finished with Sikaflex AT-Façade sealants from Sika, for water resistance and safety against fire.