United Kingdom’s most important innovation accolade goes to Bühler’s optical sorting
20 September 2019
Bühler has received the United Kingdom’s most prestigious innovation award – the Queen’s Award for Enterprise – for its optical sorting technology. In an official ceremony yesterday, in which the award was handed over by John Barber, representative Deputy Lieutenant for London Borough of Newham. Johannes Wick, Bühler Group’s CEO for Grains & Food, said: “This breakthrough technology will make the difference for us in the market for years to come. What is now in reach are applications to grade raw materials for composition and to remove invisible contaminations. This will be a major contribution to provide healthy and safe nutrition around the world.”
The Queen’s Award could be described as United Kingdom’s “Innovation Oscar”, which this year acknowledges the leading technology position of Bühler. It is the highest award for British businesses which have excelled in the fields of international trade, sustainable development, or innovation. This is the seventh Queen’s Award Bühler UK has won since 1968. This year’s win is in recognition of Bühler’s development of a unique camera technology used in sorting machines, capable of recognizing the subtlest of color and shading contrasts in materials and foods, thereby significantly increasing detection rates for foreign materials, potential choke hazards, or contaminated foods.
“Bühler are old hands at receiving these awards. After my first visit to the factory I could see why they have been constant winners. They have such a high standard of skills and technology, and are leaders in being good employers, as well as producing such high quality products,” says John Barber, representative of Her Majesty The Queen. He handed the award to Bühler’s Timothy Kelf, Head of Sensor Development. “The fact that we have been so successful in a number of different market segments with this technology shows the strength and depth of our capabilities in cutting-edge technologies,” says Kelf, who received the Queen’s Award together with Senior Research Engineer Ben Deefholts. With their team, both have been instrumental in bringing this innovation to the market.
The technology is currently being used by food producers in Europe and the United States. They report an increase in detection rates of foreign materials by 10%, from 85% to 95%. A single Sortex optical sorter can control up to 150,000 single grains or 15,000 peas per second with a capacity of 12 tons per hour, securing highest food standards.
What customers say
Bühler’s PolarVision uses the industry-leading camera technology for the frozen vegetable market. Its technology can detect even the most challenging foreign material in frozen vegetable production lines. Ardo, one of the world’s largest producers of fresh-frozen fruit, vegetables and herbs, has introduced PolarVision in its European sorting plants. “In our experience, PolarVision technology is one of the best digital-vision technologies when it comes to detecting foreign materials in the industrial frozen vegetables process. It’s a jump forward”, said Steven Van Engelandt, Ardo’s Group Project Engineer. While the technology has so far been applied to detect foreign materials, future developments will also be able to detect mycotoxins and even pathogens.
The Bühler camera technology is also being used to detect lower-grade or discolored polymers to ensure the highest grade recyclate can be achieved by plastic recyclers. By detecting such high rates of contamination, it is now possible to produce food-grade plastic packaging from 100% recycled material, cutting the need for virgin plastic production and levels of plastic being sent to landfill.
How Bühler earned the seventh Queen’s Award
One of the criteria for a Queen’s Award is that the technology should not just be innovative, but has to be scalable, commercially viable, and to have resulted in a material improvement to a commercial process. Since the introduction of the Sortex E optical sorter using BioVision technology, sales of Bühler sorting solutions into the nut sector have doubled. The technology is now being used by the world’s top nut producers globally to detect blemished nuts along with the smallest shell fragments in walnuts, pecans and pistachios.
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