Hort Connections is Australia’s largest conference and trade show for fresh produce. Supported by the Australian Packaging & Processing Machinery Association (APPMA), this year’s event was held in Adelaide from 5-7 June, with a host of packaging materials and equipment providers showcasing their solutions. In this post-show round-up, we discover the value of the event for some of the key suppliers to this sector.
(Flick through our gallery at the top of the page for a view of the showfloor.)
A&D weighs in
Specialists in electronic weighing equipment and inspection systems, A&D Australasia is a repeat exhibitor because it sees the trade show as a great opportunity for the company.
Sussan Nguyen, A&D marketing and digital consultant, said, “Hort Connections consistently delivers a direct conduit to expand our existing relationships in the fresh produce sector as well as get some important face-to-face engagement with new clients.”
She added that the fresh produce industry is faced with the challenge of constantly improving product consistency, quality and safety, while maintaining a competitive price position. She believes A&D can make a valuable contribution to meeting this set of challenges.
“At A&D we are committed to a consultative approach to help manufacturers and packers select the technology and configuration that is best suited to their individual applications and production lines," she said.
Gently does it with CPS
Case Packing Solutions (CPS) was also at the show as it seeks to grow its footprint in the fresh produce sector.
Australia/New Zealand sales manager David Griffin said, “Hort Connections is a good exhibition for our company as we have been manufacturing machines specifically designed to gently handle prepacked bags and punnets or top-sealed trays of fresh produce for many years. We have a good installation base within the fresh produce market in Australia, the UK and the European markets.
Griffin said that Hort is a good way to meet with existing customers in a relaxed environment, as well as having the opportunity of reaching new potential customers and projects in the fresh market.
“At CPS our focus is manufacturing high end machines for specific niche markets within the fresh produce sector. l see a bright future to build on our existing customer base and grow our footprint. The push for new sustainable packaging always opens new markets for alternative suppliers and provides opportunities for machinery manufacturers,” he added.
Detpak delivers on paper-based
At foodservice packaging solutions company Detpak’s stand, the company showcased its kerbside recyclable paper-based rewind that has been developed to replace poly-based form, fill and seal options. The company also displayed the Mitolo Family Farms’ premium Gourmandine potato bags, made from recycled paper, the outcome of a recent collaboration between the two companies, which PKN has also covered here.
Mark Rohrlach, Detpak’s regional manager Australasia & South Asia, said the innovation provides a 64 per cent reduction in plastic, with 8.2 tonnes less plastic being used each year (when compared to the previous packaging for this product).
“The packaging innovation is the result of more than three years of rigorous development to allow for fresh produce items being packed in a way that makes it easy for consumers to support recycling efforts,” he said.
The trade show reportedly brought many opportunities for Detpak, as Rohrlach commented: “The produce industry faces regulatory trends in support of the use of renewable and recyclable materials to reduce packaging waste. The opportunity for Detpak and the packaging sector alike is to embrace the sustainability evolution, adapt and innovate to deliver a new standard of packaging solutions to the fresh produce industry.”
Heat & Control keeps leaks in check
Industrial processing and packaging equipment company Heat & Control showcased a non-destructive leak checking technology, which can be used by processors who need to check their products for micro leaks.
Anna Dreyer, marketing executive, said, “Micro leaks are typically detected by using a water bath, which means tested product cannot be returned to the line after a pass result. The non-destructive solution we had on display is a truly innovative technology, which reduces wastage and allows tested product to return to the line after a pass result.”
Dreyer pointed out that Heat & Control has many other solutions available for the fresh produce space; including Ishida X-ray technology, CEIA metal detectors, Key digital sorting solutions, Urschel size reduction technology, Oxipack leak detection technology, Ishida retail solutions in scales, weigh-wrapping and weigh-price-labelling, and further end-of-line solutions.
For Heat & Control, she said, Hort represents the ideal platform to showcase how these solutions might benefit processors of fresh produce here in Australia and New Zealand.
“Hort Connections gives us the opportunity to connect with growers and processors of fresh produce; to introduce them to equipment solutions which are already setting the standard for yield, efficiency, and safety — in a range of comparable operations such as retail, food service and ready meal operations,” she concluded.
Hort is high value for HMPS
Participating in Hort has proven to be a highly valuable experience for HMPS. This is the view of Adam Read, national sales manager of automated packaging solutions manufacturer HMPS, who said, “We were able to directly interact with our clients, partners, and peers to understand their evolving needs and perspectives, which are integral to our growth strategy.
Emphasising the potential in the fresh produce industry for the company and the wider sector, he stated, “As the fresh produce industry continues to expand and diversify, it brings with it a host of opportunities. The increasing focus on sustainability and reducing waste, for example, offers us the prospect of developing innovative, eco-friendly packaging solutions."
Read also pointed out the potential of integrating advanced technologies like remote access and machine learning into packaging and processing machinery.
“By embracing these technologies,” he said, “we can significantly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of our machines, such as our latest generation of Propac VFFS, and provide solutions that meet and exceed our customers’ expectations in the fresh produce sector.”
A first for Intralox
Conveyor solutions company Intralox said it was the first time it had exhibited at Hort, with Ray Rotar, who manages the fruit and veg side of the business, in attendance. According to the Intralox team, “With fresh produce packing facilities typically set up close to the growing areas in regional locations, Hort provides a fantastic opportunity to compress our opportunity cycle through accelerated engagement with potential customers and our partner OEM/Integrators.”
The team clearly felt the show brought Intralox much value, adding, “It is a space that is experiencing significant growth in demand for its products and a definable need for automation to enable the producers and their supply chain to achieve that growth in a profitable and sustainable manner. These segment drivers have proven over a number of years now to align perfectly with Intralox’s conveyance specialisation, and so we are excited to see how far the segment as a whole can innovate their facilities in the coming years.”
Matthews in on the mark
For supplier of intelligent identification solutions, Matthews Australasia, Hort is a valuable event because “it attracts quality visitors who are there for a purpose”.
This year, Matthews showcased its products on two stands: Woolworths (with Primary Connect) and FreshChain, demonstrating its GS1 SSCC labels, GTIN and Woolworths Fresh Produce carton and crate labels at the former, while the FreshChain stand hosted its Linx TT5, showing GS1 Digital Link serialised 2D QR codes. On both stands the company also demonstrated its iDSnet Cloud solution.
Braydon Cocks, product specialist, provided anecdotal evidence of successful interactions at Hort: “On the second day, a wholesale flower grower approached us. They’d been having major problems with SSCC labels and had even tried to make their own. I took them through the how-to videos on our website, showed them how to set up GS1-compliant SSCC labels, then how to connect their printer, and in 15 minutes they were up and running. This company is one of Australia’s biggest wholesale-flower operators, and when they came to see us on the Woolies’ stand, they were they were frustrated with the labelling software they had, yet in a short period of time we’d solved those issues for them.”
Cocks said, “We have made straightforward, instructional videos on how to use iDSnet Cloud, which are on our website. We have also created a whole library on barcodes, 2D barcodes, SSCC labels, QR codes, all sorts of codes, which is also free so that people can learn about global data standards, which are important for systems, traceability and dockability, so any part the supply chain can seamlessly exchange data.”
The event was clearly full of opportunities for Matthews, with Cocks adding, “I see the opportunities for Matthews in the fresh-produce space to continue what we’re doing, that is, to keep supporting individual businesses in enabling their goods to move through the supply chain with ease. In essence, this supports the industry as a whole, strengthening the entire Australian fresh-produce sector.”
Opal shows the best of boxes
Opal said it had ”extremely positive feedback” with its earthy cardboard-based display” well received and its display of boxes and punnets for the fresh produce sector inspiring much engagement with visitors to Hort Connections.
The Opal team found the show of value as it got to catch up with cross sections of the industry including growers, suppliers, agents and industry bodies.
Laser focus on fresh produce for Result Group
Result Group used the show to launch its new EcoMark natural branding technology, which PKN covered here.
Result Group claims that the technology completely eliminates the need for any material in the marking process, meaning no label, no ink, no silicone and no additives are used. It says the laser does not damage the produce nor affect shelf life. “Removing the stickers is a large part of increasing the efficiency of composting,” said Group GM Michael Dossor, adding, “South Australia has already called a ban on the fruit label from 2025.”
Dossor concluded: “Over the two days I’ve had more enquiries than I’ve ever taken at a trade fair in all my years doing this,” while anticipating the EcoMark will be seen on fresh produce across supermarkets within this calendar year.
Rhima comes up well in the wash
Mark Hollingsworth, group CEO of Rhima said that it was valuable interacting with the produce sector, commenting, “We generated a good enquiry level for a show of this size. It was well supported, and people were keen to talk about opportunities they have, and it was certainly a national show with enquiries from all states.”
Rhima had on exhibit two small produce crate washers, and Hollingsworth also said the company “had a lot of interest” in its fully automated Mega Bin washers across all types of business in the produce sector, from companies growing citrus, mangoes, apples, potatoes, and mushrooms.”
Hollingsworth noted that when it comes to sustainability, more people are looking at the reuse strategy rather than the recycle strategy, as he said: “More retailers are pushing back on cardboard in this space, so growers are using RPCs [returnable plastic crates] to deliver the produce to the various outlets across the country, which are returned then washed and reused. This aligns with our mantra of Rethink, Reuse Rhima.”
Tomra has it sorted
Manufacturer of collection and sorting products Tomra exhibited its infeed, sorting and grading, filling, and packing solutions for a comprehensive range of fruit and vegetable produce.
Sameer Khalid, area sales manager ANZ, said the company’s optical grading systems and integrated solutions ensure a gentle transition throughout the packhouse, from bin to the sorter through to packing. He said that the latest software upgrade for the Spectrim optical grading platform is now available, which provides improved blemish sizing and counting accuracy using advanced templated grade maps via an intuitive and simplified user interface, allowing customers to reach peak performance of their sorting line faster and easier.
“We also showcased the Adaptive Rate Controller (ARC) demo on the Tomra Food stand. ARC’s pre-trained AI models and advanced camera technology, turns infeed conveyors into smart fruit detecting and counting systems, automatically adjusting the speed of the line based on the fruit per minute rate to provide consistent volume of fruit to the sorter,” Khalid said.
Khalid concluded: “Hort Connections was a great way for us to engage with the industry and showcase Tomra’s advanced sorting and grading solutions to growers, packers, and food processors.
“Tomra continues to develop, design, and adapt advanced food sorting and grading technology, steam peeling machines, and integrated post-harvest solutions with the aim to improve efficiency gains to further protect and empower food producing businesses.”
For APPMA, Hort Connections was a worthwhile experience all round. APPMA CEO Michael Moran said the association was proud to support the event through its partnership with AUSVEG.
Moran, who attended the show, said, “It was good to meet up with our APPMA exhibiting members and we will continue to work with Hort Connections to support the show and the wider industry.”