Ishida Europe Ltd. (Netherlands) - Based in Warmenhuizen, the Netherlands, Bejo Zaden is one of the world’s leading companies in the breeding, production, processing and sales of premium quality vegetable seeds, and its experience in the sector spans more than 100 years. Today the company offers over 1,000 different varieties for around 50 crops for the global market and a wide range of target groups. Each variety has its unique characteristics, such as flavour, disease resistances, shape, colour, strength, or has been developed to be suitable for a specific climate. Bejo seed is sold to customers worldwide through a network of subsidiary companies and dedicated distributors.
The wide variety of vegetable seeds is the result of highly skilled staff working in innovative research programmes, and Bejo invests a substantial part of its annual revenue in research. The company produces around 40 new vegetables each year offering the characteristics demanded by the food chain such as healthier crops, increased resistance to disease, higher yields for processors as well as enhanced flavour and aroma for consumers.
The development process to create a new seed is long and involved. Bejo produces all its seeds under its own management in areas with the best climatic conditions. Each seed lot is then subjected to a long post-harvest process of cleaning and quality inspections at the company’s headquarters in Warmenhuizen – and only half of these will actually become Bejo seeds, ready to be sown. Little wonder that it can take between ten and fifteen years to bring a new variety successfully to market.
All of which underlines both the high quality and high value of the seeds that Bejo produces. It is therefore vital that the weighing and packing operation for these special products reflects this same quality and value – and is a key reason why Bejo has continued to place its trust in Ishida technology for the past 30 years.
While the company is still using the very first Ishida CCW-Z weigher that it installed in 1993, which is now dedicated to the weighing and packing of Bejo’s organic seeds ranges, Ishida’s latest technology is also very much in evidence with the installation of two miniature multihead weighers – called the Lilliput and specially designed to handle small target weight applications - and two CCW-RS weighers.
The weighing of the seeds at Bejo creates a number of challenges for the equipment. Each seed batch is different in its characteristics, and some are even so small that they need an additional coating, which breaks down naturally once in the ground, in order for them to be handled and sown effectively. In addition, Bejo sells its seeds mostly by number in the pack rather than by weight.
The Ishida weighers are therefore set at a target weight that matches the number of seeds per pack, which vary for each seed batch. For the Lilliput weighers, pack weights are from 2g to 80g, which represents anything from 250 to 25,000 seeds depending on the variety. In order to ensure the correct amount of seeds in every pack, the accuracy of each weighment is vital. Bejo reports that accuracy is to within 0.03g on a 2g pack, with speeds of up to 75 packs per minute.
For its larger bag sizes up to 1.5kg, Bejo is using the two Ishida CCW-RS multihead weighers. Again, excellent accuracy - to within 0.1% of target weight – is being achieved at speeds of currently 30 bags per minute but this is limited by the manual packing of the bags into cartons. The company is now installing a robotic pick-and-place system for this operation, which will take the speed of the line to up to 50 bags per minute.
The huge number of seed varieties means there can be up to 20 changeovers per day on each weigher. With easy cleaning using vacuum cleaning and compressed air and the settings for each production run pre-set and easily called up on the weighers’ remote control unit, these changeovers can be carried out quickly in around 10 minutes.
It is the reliable and accurate performance of the weighers that has sustained Bejo’s long-standing relationship with Ishida, one which has withstood the challenges from rival equipment.
“When we installed the new lines for the larger bags, we did trial some alternative weighers,” says Bas Schuit, logistics team leader at Bejo Zaden. “However, their performance simply wasn’t up to our high standards and this demonstrated the superior capabilities of the Ishida weighers”.
“The Lilliput weighers in particular are ideal for weighing seeds and have transformed our packing operation for the smaller pack sizes.”
Bejo also uses Ishida checkweighers throughout its operations.
“These provide a vital final quality control check and this is becoming increasingly important as we move to automated packing of our cartons, which means no manual checks by operators are possible anymore,” explains Bas. “Like the multiheads, the Ishida checkweighers are consistently reliable and accurate.”