Top new tech doubles potato production

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Potato farmer Chris Ayres, machine designer Daniel Pitton and Janine and Colin Ayres.
Camera IconPotato farmer Chris Ayres, machine designer Daniel Pitton and Janine and Colin Ayres. Credit: Shannon Smith

A potato farm in Bornholm is the first in the country to receive game-changing sorting technology which allows them to more than double production.

The Visar Sorting machine separates unwashed potatoes into grades using high-speed cameras to capture photos of the potatoes and direct them to the correct conveyor belt.

The potatoes are shot through the machine at 3.2m a second and up to 7 tonnes of the vegetable can be sorted in an hour.

Potato farmers Colin and Janine Ayres and their son Chris received a $200,000 State Government grant in 2018 which went towards making the almost $800,000 project come to life.

The farm supplies the WA and national market, which has now reopened after the tomato potato psyllid biosecuritiy incident in 2017 forced growers to dump thousands of tonnes of potatoes.

Chris said prior to the investment, their human labour-run sorting was failing to meet the speed required to keep up with demand.

“We now have a much better capacity to harvest potatoes, sort them and get them to our consumers as quickly as we can,” he said.

“The grant really helped to get this up and running after the tough couple of years with the detection of TPP where we had to bury $1.6 million worth of potatoes.”

The new set-up houses two of the machines, with the potential to add another two and double production again to up to 14 tonnes an hour.

The design is straight out of Switzerland, and Visar Sorting designer and owner Daniel Pitton said that as a potato farmer himself, he knew the issues that needed to be resolved for maximum production.

“The goal is to align the potatoes one after the other as fast as we can to get capacity,” he said.

“We need a 360 degree view of the potato, we need good pictures and good light, and we also have infra-red vision.”

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