Bühler wins 7th Queen’s Award for Enterprise

Bühler UK has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation, recognising its pioneering research into camera technology used in sorting machines.

Bühler’s latest developments are capable of recognising the subtlest of colour and shading contrasts in materials and foods and so significantly increasing detection rates for foreign materials, potential choke hazards or contaminated foods.

The UK-developed technology uses hyperspectral imaging to record vast amounts of wavelength data to generate highly accurate colour and shading contrasts for specific products. Over the past four years Bühler has used this technology to produce a range of specialist cameras for different markets: BioVision targeted at the nut industry, PolarVision aimed at producers of frozen vegetable and PolyVision designed to improve plastic recycling rates.

The technology is currently being used by food producers in Europe and the US who are reporting increased detection rates for foreign materials up from 85% to 95%.

One of the criteria for a Queen’s Award is that the technology should not just be innovative, but it must also 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 to detect blemished nuts along with the smallest shell fragments in walnuts, pecans and pistachios.

Similar inroads are being made into the frozen vegetable market thanks to the ability of PolarVision technology to detect even the most challenging foreign material in frozen vegetable production lines. Ardo, one of the world’s largest fresh-frozen fruit, vegetable and herb producers, 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 FM in the industrial frozen vegetables process. It’s a jump forward”, said Steven Van Engelandt, Ardo’s group project engineer.

“We tested all other options, including laser, chlorophyll, translucency, but PolarVision was unsurpassed and it’s becoming standard in all our plants. When we were testing PolarVision, formerly problematic FM such as snails and dark plastic, became visible, and were removed, with an increase in yields, due to a more precise detection of defects.”

The Bühler camera technology is also being used to detect foreign material and 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.

The Queen’s Award for Enterprise is the highest UK award for British businesses who have excelled in the fields of international trade, innovation, or sustainable development. This is the seventh Queen’s Award that has been won by Bühler UK since 1968.

“We are absolutely delighted to be receiving this ‘seventh’ Queen’s award. Innovation is at the heart of our business and it’s wonderful to see another cutting edge product making a big impact in the market; on food safety, food quality and of course generating commercial success for our customers,” says Matthew Kelly, managing director of digital technologies within the Bühler Group.

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