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AUSTRALIA : Fewer workers needed in mango packing sheds with automatic grading machines

NT Country Hour 

Posted about 10 hours ago

Tue 11 Nov 2014, 7:01pm

Mango grading typically takes skill and long hours of concentration, but advances in technology means increasingly fewer workers are needed in the hot and noisy packing sheds of the north.

A packing shed near Katherine in the Northern Territory has a machine that automatically grades mangoes as they pass beneath its high speed camera.

Tina Niceforo, owner of Tropical Treasures packing shed, says as the mangoes roll underneath the camera, it takes 60 photographs of each side of every mango, and grades the fruit by checking for blemishes, blush and weight.

"It will put it in its right category to say whether it's a first [grade] piece of fruit, being the most premium, or it's a second class or a third grade, and which goes to rubbish,"
said Ms Niceforo.

"It also weighs the fruit and lets me know what size it is, whether it's a smaller fruit or a bigger fruit or a medium fruit."

The camera provides around 95 per cent accuracy, which is better and more consistent than a human, Ms Niceforo said.

AUDIO: Tina Niceforo discusses her automatic mango grading machine (ABC Rural)

"Humans get tired, it's hot and they get bothered. A camera and a machine keeps going, so there's no comparison really."

Ms Niceforo says the shed and automatic grading machine were big investments.

"The camera alone is probably worth $350,000 to $400,000 and the whole [packing line] itself is just over a $1 million."

She says the season around Katherine has been somewhat patchy so far, but the quality of the fruit has been good.

"We haven't gone and picked it all at once. It's a bit stop and start, but the crop is quite good, but picking in bits and pieces."

Mangoes being packed in Ms Niceforo's shed are from her own 40,000 trees in Katherine and Darwin, as well as about 400 bins per day of contract packing from other farms.

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