Almond farming pioneers introduce analyser of the future
Australian company SureNut has used its decades of experience in the almond industry to develop a machine to automate the quality-assurance process, eliminating the risk of human error, reducing costs and saving valuable time. They are now looking to engage with sorter manufacturers to give the technology a global reach.
RELATED: Learn more about SureNut's opportunity on AgriFutures growAG.
The SureNut Analyser uses near-infrared technology to scan almonds to meet the stringent requirements of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards as well as testing for moisture, colour, and shelf life.
Third-generation farmer and SureNut Managing Director, Drew Martin said the patented technology has also enabled another first – skin-on machine detection of the known carcinogen aflatoxin, previously only capable through laboratory analysis.
“Lab analysis is a time-consuming, expensive process which currently has to be done, but we can eliminate that,” said Drew.
“The World Health Organisation sets a benchmark of no more than eight parts per billion. The SureNut Analyser detects aflatoxin at point-five parts per billion.”
Advantages over current practices
Drew said almond processing currently relies on a two-step process. Firstly, high-speed, high-volume laser sorting weeds out almonds that fall outside appropriate parameters such as size, spots, and chips. This is followed by a more rigorous quality assurance (QA) process which involves taking a 500g sample of almonds from every tonne, and inspecting by hand for defects such as colour, insect damage, foreign material, and chips.
“So that QA process takes quite a long time,” said Drew.
“Staff physically grab that sample, put it out on the table, and sort it into the eight to 10 different categories to meet those USDA standards. This goes on all day, every day during the season and sometimes there is human error in there.
“Currently, moisture, colour, shelf life and aflatoxin testing are done separately.
“SureNut brings them all together with 10-15 per cent greater accuracy than hand inspection.
“That sets us apart in the market.”
In addition to the time and cost saving, the ability to establish shelf life means each batch of almonds can be matched to its best use – those that need to be sold and eaten immediately or those that will last up to 12 months in the pantry, or even longer if roasted.
The hardest nut to crack
After years spent fine-tuning the SureNut Analyser, the family company is now looking for partners in sorter manufacturing to grow its reach on a global, commercial scale.
Amid rising interest in the United States, the global centre of the almond industry, the technology has also been successfully tested on pistachio nuts and is being rolled out across other nuts and grains.
“We’re not necessarily looking for capital, it’s more about finding that manufacturing partner to integrate our IP into commercially produced electronic sorters and really optomise quality assurance processes in the entire nuts and grains industry,” said Drew.
“The next step is to go across to either California or Canada.
“Our contacts for grains are in Canada so it will depend somewhat on seasons and other factors as to where the machine will go first but that’s ultimately where SureNut will be in 12 months’ time.”
Find more information on SureNut and their opportunity visit the growAG. website here.