With low yields, high production costs and some of the most extreme handling conditions for well over 30 years, the harvest period has been a testing time for the UK potato industry and is the subject of much conversation at the moment!
These extreme conditions have sparked demand for versatile handling machinery, which has taken on a new emphasis to not only make the whole process more cost effective, but also to be flexible enough to cope with such demanding and ever-changing conditions.
Forward-thinking Wharton Farms in East Norfolk made the decision to upgrade their grading system in time for this year’s challenging season, which has meant they have been able to meet demands whatever the weather.
With high demand for the immediate supply of perfect crop, diverse Norfolk agricultural business Wharton Farms made the decision to invest in a complete mobile grading unit from Tong Engineering.
Based in Stokesby, East Norfolk, Wharton Farms grows a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, including blackcurrants, mint and peas, as well as 280 acres of potatoes for chipping.
“We grow and process for some of the UK’s top brands, including Ribena, Colman’s and McCain Oven Chips,” said Ed Wharton, from Wharton Farms.
“With a high demand for graded produce at short notice, we needed a flexible and efficient handling line, that was not only capable of grading a high throughput of crop, but also versatile enough to handle varying lifting conditions.
“We purchased a 2012 mobile Caretaker mobile vegetable grader from Tong, due to its reputation for reliable and high quality equipment, as well as excellent customer service and a commitment to meeting bespoke requirements. Our customised system is 2,400mm wide, featuring a six-row EasyClean Separator, fully adjustable spiral cleaner and picking area. With the need to deal with a variety of soil types and lifting conditions, the system is controlled with fully automated HMI touch-screen technology, providing instant adjustments to cleaning set-ups and throughput speed,” added Ed.
Charlie Rich, export sales manager at Tong Engineering, said: “By embracing the latest technology and tailoring components to meet specific requirements, we were able to provide the complete solution to Wharton Farm’s handling needs.
“From initial site visits, we identified that crops were being lifted in a wide variety of wet and dry conditions, which meant that providing a flexible and automated process was necessary.
“An effective cleaning unit, to tackle high haulm, soil and clod content was specified, alongside fully automated mechanical adjustments for simple changes in varying lifting conditions.
“Throughout the design and development of the customised unit, we worked in partnership with Mr Wharton to ensure our system delivered an unrivalled grading process, guaranteeing a high throughput, while still maintaining gentle treatment of crop.
“As well as having the versatility to handle varying lifting conditions, the bespoke Caretaker has been designed especially with energy efficiency in mind. This ensures significant cost savings and an environmentally friendly approach to handling.
“The design is completely customised, with each component tailored specifically to the handling and grading requirements of Mr Wharton.
“We’ve ensured that Wharton Farms is now able to effectively grade and handle a high volume of crop in a short space of time, using one simple process, ensuring economy of resource, time and labour,” added Charlie.
CHARLES TONG’S EXPERT COMMENT:
Low temperatures and a season of unexpectedly high rainfall has seen the cost of potato crop production increase dramatically,” said Charles Tong, managing director of Tong Engineering.
“However, these extreme conditions have sparked innovation and demand for versatile handling machinery, which has taken on a new emphasis to not only make the whole process more cost effective, but also to be flexible enough to cope with such demanding conditions.
“Investing in equipment that can effectively remove these from the grading and processing procedure can really help to reduce labour bills, increase throughput and speed up the process, which will ultimately provide a greater volume of high value crop for customers.
“Our range of grading and handling machinery has been developed over a number of years, and is designed to work in the most challenging of conditions, helping growers and packers to increase profitability and maintain a high level of contract income.
“One product that has been developed specifically to tackle high haulm, soil and clod content in harvested crop is Tong’s EasyClean separator.
Featuring an electric motor on every shaft, the EasyClean ensures ultimate cleaning control, gentle handling of crop and guarantees minimal maintenance.
“The cleaning system can be manufactured in widths ranging from 900 – 2400mm and models with a choice of 4, 6, 8 and 10 rows of cleaning spirals. Specified as a stand-alone unit or integrated into Tong’s Caretaker grading machine, the EasyClean provides supreme cleaning and separating in challenging conditions.
“Furthermore, direct controlled drives and HMI touch screen technology mean that the separator is fully automated. This allows settings to be easily changed for differing crop types and lifting conditions, with the touch of a button, ensuring the gentlest possible crop handling.
“By moving ahead of the times, looking towards new technologies and changing practices to overcome poor growing and lifting conditions, growers and packers can maintain high profit levels in a time of such difficult handling.
“However, this relies on specifying and selecting effective and versatile equipment that will not only meet current needs, but also be adaptable to changing requirements,” added Charles.