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Key Technology Introduces new Integrated High-Capacity Sorting System for Fresh Spinach

Manta for Spinach Sorting

November 19, 2014 – Key Technology introduces a new sorting system for fresh spinach. The integrated system includes an Iso-Flo® fines removal shaker or dewatering shaker together with an acceleration belt and Manta® digital sorter to inspect fresh spinach and other leafy greens such as cut cabbage, romaine, and iceberg lettuce. It is ideal for sorting fresh product at receiving, after cutting, or after washing and drying. This integrated system improves the accuracy of foreign material (FM) and defect removal to enhance product quality and food safety while increasing throughput and maximizing yield.

“Fresh spinach can be very hard to sort because the leaves are light and flat, so they fly like a sail. It tends to lift and roll, which makes it difficult to stabilize for accurate inspection and the targeting of rejects. Overcoming this challenge required a series of very specialized product handling solutions,” said Marco Azzaretti, Advanced Inspection Systems Product Manager at Key Technology. “With our product handling expertise and our sorting expertise combined, we designed this very successful integrated system for sorting fresh spinach.”

In tests, this new sorting system removed 100 percent of the foreign material while achieving a false reject rate of only 0.5 percent.

Successfully stabilizing the spinach enabled Key to increase the belt speed of Manta by 30 percent, which increases capacity. Featuring a Manta 2000 series sorter, this new fresh spinach sorting system inspects up to 13,000 lbs. (5.9 metric tons) of spinach per hour. When sorting cut romaine or iceberg lettuce, the system inspects up to 12,000 lbs. (5.5 metric tons) per hour. On cut cabbage, it can process up to 50,000 lbs. (22.7 metric tons) per hour.

When located at receiving or after cutting, the first step in the process is a three-deck Iso-Flo fines removal shaker that removes small objects such as dirt clods, insects, sticks, small rocks, and cotyledons to reduce the load on the digital sorter. If the system is located after washing and drying, an Iso-Flo dewatering shaker is the first of the three integrated steps.

Next, a specialized acceleration belt spreads, singulates, and stabilizes product for optimal presentation to the sorter. By providing an ideal view of each object to the sorter’s vision system and improving the consistency of each object’s trajectory from inspection to ejection, the accuracy of FM and defect removal is improved, which maximizes product quality and yield.

This integrated fresh spinach sorting system features Key’s Manta 2000 series sorter equipped with three top-mounted Vis/IR (visible infrared) cameras, two bottom-mounted Vis/IR cameras, and two fluorescence-sensing lasers. The high-definition cameras recognize color, size, and shape to detect a wide range of leaf defects including mechanical damage such as bruising, decay such as light decay and wilting, color defects such as yellow caused by sunburn, and more. The lasers identify differing levels of chlorophyll to detect FM such as insects, larvae, weeds, tree leaves, and more. When sorting chopped cabbage, romaine, or iceberg lettuce, the laser is also configured to detect and reject core. The two-sided viewing capability of Key’s Manta 2000 is essential to ensure no FM or defects are hidden.

For ease of operation, Manta is equipped with KeyWare® Application Software designed specifically for each product application. Defects and foreign material are categorized on the user interface in terms common to each product, and product settings can be stored and retrieved for fast product changeover.

The patented, icon-based graphical user interface (GUI) is easy to learn and use, reducing operator training and simplifying optimum operation. The GUI can reside locally on the system and can be accessed remotely via network or Internet, enhancing the flexibility in the operating environment and easing access for remote factory troubleshooting and application assistance. Sophisticated real-time and on-demand diagnostics help minimize and avoid costly downtime, and detect conditions that could compromise inspection.

About Key Technology, Inc.

Key Technology (NASDAQ: KTEC) is a global leader in the design and manufacture of process automation systems including digital sorters, conveyors, and processing equipment. Applying processing knowledge and application expertise, Key helps customers in the food processing and other industries improve quality, increase yield, and reduce cost. An ISO-9001 certified company, Key manufactures its products at its headquarters in Walla Walla, Washington, USA and in Beusichem, the Netherlands; Hasselt, Belgium; and Redmond, Oregon, USA. Key offers customer demonstration and testing services at five locations including Walla Walla, Beusichem, and Hasselt as well as Sacramento, California, USA and Melbourne, Australia; and maintains a sales and service office in Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico.


Reader Inquiries:

Anita Funk Key Technology, Inc. 150 Avery Street Walla Walla WA 99362 USA

Phone: 509-529-2161 Fax: 509-527-1331 Email:

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Sandra McBride McBride Public Relations 5 Arastradero Road Portola Valley CA 94028 USA

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