State of the Art Vision Sorting System

11/1/2018 8:26:50 AM

State of the Art Vision Sorting System | by Christian Palmaz

The 2018 Vintage marks a breakthrough for Palmaz Vineyard’s grape sorting capability.  In 2003 we developed a unique 3-axis vibratory conveyor that aided our team of sorters to visually identify and remove any deficient berries.  Quite the tedious task, at the time this was the penultimate method for ensuring only the best fruit made it to the fermenter.  However after several hours, even the most fastidious succumb to quality affecting fatigue.  Finally technology has caught up with the capabilities of human dexterity and visual comprehension.

Optical sorting has been around for over a decade now.  With grapes, most optical sorting system are essentially capable of 3 basic categories: size, color, and shape.  In most applications this is sufficient, however in order to improve upon the finest quality of a human, additional capability must be provided.  The moment Pellenc introduced the Vision 2 we knew it would finally provide the technology needed to exceed our status quo.  Over the course of two years we worked closely with engineers from Pellanc to implement the system into our process.

The Vision Sorter added a new dimension to optical sorting: texture.  By being able to see the berry in 3D, we were able to dial in the exact surface we wanted, something our highly trained human sorters did naturally when looking for sun damaged fruit.  With nearly a 100% accuracy we were able to remove any berry that did not meet the strictest guidelines of size, shape, color, and now texture.  We could even identify if a berry had a stem still attached.

The berries gently accelerate to a set speed on what looks like a grape treadmill.  Towards the end of the mat, the berries enter the vision chamber which is bathed in a high intensity light from specific angles.  High above the chamber, a high speed and high resolution camera captures every detail of the objects on the mat.  Milliseconds later, the powerful onboard computer has figured out exactly which objects pass or don’t pass the strict criteria.

As the berries reach the end of the mat, they literally fly under a special puffer bar containing hundreds of small jets.  Objects that don’t pass get a trajectory changing puff of compressed air that sends them into a discarding chamber.  The process happens so fast only a high speed camera can do the magic justice.

The results are very impressive.  In fact, the wine making team and I agree that this single-handedly will be a rare quality defining improvement for the wines.  The human element is undeniably irreplaceable in wine.  However for the dull, fatiguing, and repetitive, technology has made great strides in keeping us humans focused on the artistic elements in wine.  We can’t wait to get the 2018 vintage to the blending table.