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Packaging system

Tailored solutions for greenhouse grown leafy greens

In recent years, supplies of greenhouse grown leafy greens have gone up in rapid pace. Although this is a global trend, the growth rate is highest in the United States. “Popularity of greenhouse grown produce is driven by factors like year-round supplies, efficient use of water and labor, less dependence on climate changes, protection against extreme weather events, reduced risk of diseases, lower pesticide use and a higher ability to control the end-product,” says Joost Somford with JASA Packaging Solutions. “In addition, COVID-19 is playing a role as well. Import and export restrictions caused by the pandemic have further increased the popularity of greenhouse grown produce as it reduces the dependence on imports.”

Within the United States, the greenhouse category is expanding across the country, but the growth rate seems particularly high in urban areas. With reduced travel distance and travel time from field to store, greenhouses not only provide high-quality produce in big cities, but also play a key role in security of supplies. As a result of growth in this category, demand for high-quality packaging solutions is up as well.

Sleever for leafy greens

Camera systems and quality control
JASA Packaging Solutions was established in the Netherlands in 1985 and the company opened a branch in the United States three years ago. “From day one, we noticed strong demand for flexible and innovative packaging lines for greenhouse grown produce, from the East Coast to the West Coast,” said Somford, who installs packaging lines nationwide as well as into Canada. “Being a Dutch company plays to our advantage,” he continued.

The Netherlands has always been a front runner when it comes to the greenhouse industry and the country has built a strong reputation over the years. “As a result, we have been supplying packaging solutions for the greenhouse industry for all 35 years we’ve been in business.” Decades of expertise allow JASA to offer new solutions next to the proven tray packaging lines that weren’t available in North America until now. An example is the use of camera systems to control seal density, as well as positioning of the labels and the prints of lot codes and dates on the labels. In addition, the company offers a variety of options when it comes to product quality systems. An example is the use of UV-C technology inside a protected environment. Bacteria and viruses are quickly deactivated with UV-C light. The working of UV-C is one of the new proven technologies in product controlling.

Since this type of equipment is not being widely used in North America yet, JASA often collaborates with Dutch partners in offering a complete, integrated packaging line. “We work together with greenhouse builders, but also companies that are experts when it comes to harvesting, washing, and mixing of product. “Our expertise is centered around packaging leafy greens and we also take care of the end of line, which includes palletizing and case packing. “We are able to offer support throughout the entire process and this is being appreciated by our North American clients. We are here to provide service to our customers from beginning to end.”

Bag packing line

Single tray packing line

Double tray packing line

Difference between packaging in North America and the Netherlands
Although customers in North America and the Netherlands can expect the same high-quality packaging from JASA Solutions, the look is entirely different. First of all, the size differs greatly. In North America, a package with leafy greens contains up to 500 grams (about 1 lb.) of greens while most packaging in the Netherlands contains about 100 grams of product. Not only do packages in the United States need to hold more volume, another difference is the type of packaging leafy greens are sold in. Whereas bags are the most popular packaging for leafy greens in the Netherlands, in the United States leafy greens are mostly sold in plastic clamshells or top sealed trays. “Popularity of trays is driven by the importance of design,” commented Somford. “A tray looks appealing on the shelf while a bag is still perceived less attractive. In North America, much attention is paid to the look and feel of the packaging.”

For more information:
Joost Somford
JASA Packaging Solutions, Inc.
Tel: +1 (804) 290-3683

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Japanese tomato harvest robot in action in Tomatoworld

A new tomato harvesting robot has recently been driving through the paths of Tomatoworld. It is the latest product of inaho Europe, a subsidiary of the Japanese company inaho.  “The purpose of launching the demonstration at Tomatoworld is to allow more interested people to see the robot in operation,” says Takahito Shimizo, managing director of inaho Europe. “We want to demonstrate the robot and receive more feedback from growers, in order to develop and increase the value of the robot.”

Snack tomato robot
Tomatoworld is a horticultural information and education center in Westland, Netherlands. In the greenhouse, snack tomatoes are grown.

Takahito Shimizo shows how the robot is a fully automatic harvesting device for snack tomatoes. “The AI algorithm identifies the ripe fruits by color and size and then harvests the ripe snack tomatoes.”

inaho has already conducted field trials with growers in Japan and demonstrated a reduction in human working hours of around 16% by setting up a workflow in which robots harvest during the nighttime before humans do.

Meanwhile, inaho also found that there are differences between Japanese and Dutch growers in terms of harvest and post-harvest operations. “For example, the standards for the picking appropriate color of the fruits and the frequency of harvesting are different,” says Takahito.

In order to develop a solution that is more suitable for Dutch growers, inaho is keen to get a better understanding of the Dutch growers’ practices and receive more operational feedback from them. In this context, inaho is also actively seeking a grower partner who would be able to carry out a field trial of the harvesting robot.

Growers welcome
The demonstration in Tomatoworld also contributes to this: growers are invited to come and see and assess the robot. “We are happy to discuss details about the robot, such as its functions and expected future updates. We can also provide simulations to calculate the labor and cost savings, based on the results of the trials in Japan,” Takahito says.

It is not the Japanese company’s first robot. inaho already launched an AI-equipped asparagus harvesting robot (video) in 2019. They are also working on a robot that can phenotype plants. inaho operates according to the Robot-as-a-Service (RaaS) business model – paying per harvested product.



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BelOrta launches 100% recycled & recyclable strawberry punnet

Starting this week, the first Belgian strawberries from BelOrta will be packed in new packaging. These are Tray2Tray punnets made from recycled raw materials that are still 100% recyclable. Consumers can recognize these punnets by a special logo.

Starting this week, the first Belgian strawberries from BelOrta will be packed in new packaging. These are Tray2Tray punnets made from recycled raw materials that are still 100% recyclable. Consumers can recognize these punnets by a special logo.
BelOrta launches 100% recycled & recyclable strawberry punnet 89

Together with Fost Plus and Infia, BelOrta says it is taking ‘the next step in increasingly sustainable production and distribution’. “This step contributes to a circular economy. Not unimportant, because recent figures show that we are eating more and more home-grown strawberries,” according to the cooperative. 

Closed cycle

With the strawberry punnets, no empty strawberry tray has to end up on the waste mountain from now on, because every packaging can be processed and reused as raw material for new packaging.

Jo Lambrecht, Sales & Marketing Manager at BelOrta: “With this Tray2Tray concept, in which new punnets are made from used packaging, we contribute to a circular economy. We have been working with so-called ‘r-PET’ as a raw material for 4 years, recycled from water and soft drinks bottles and other PET packaging that consumers collect. The New Blue Bag has recently been introduced to us for the collection of all plastic packaging waste. 

By the way, Belgians are champions in sorting and collecting waste, which makes a difference to a healthier and more pleasant living environment. Thanks to new techniques, developed under the impulse of Fost Plus, we can now also sort these r-PET punnets (cf. the new blue bag) and recycle them into flakes, after which they are used again as raw material for the production of new packaging, such as for our strawberries and berries. This completes the cycle.”

450 tons less CO2 emissions per year

But what about ‘the most sustainable packaging is no packaging’? Lambrecht: “That is indeed true for many products, often including food. We try to avoid or reduce the use of packaging wherever possible. But for sensitive and perishable products, well-chosen packaging is crucial in the fight against food waste. Various tests, including with strawberries and berries, have taught us that well thought-out packaging makes all the difference. Wasting less food reduces our ecological footprint. Moreover, r-PET as a raw material has a low ecological footprint compared to many other materials.”

For BelOrta, the replacement of PET by r-PET means a reduction of 450 tons of CO2 emissions per year. 

Belgians eat an average of 1.94 kg of strawberries per year

More than 9,000 tons of strawberries were sold in 2020 via BelOrta. With over 100 different growers, the acreage of strawberries at BelOrta is about 300 hectares, an increase of 4% compared to the previous year.

Recent figures from market research agency GfK also show that the average Belgian ate 1.94 kg of strawberries in 2020. That is a growth of more than 12% compared to the previous year. Elsanta, Portola, Elegance, Malling Centenary, Sonata and Sonsation are the main varieties at BelOrta.

For more information:


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Packaging system

Sustainable packaging company adds cardboard tray to its portfolio

Cascades, a North America and European based packaging company, is launching the first thermoformed cardboard tray. The product is made from 100 percent recycled and recyclable cardboard and has a recyclable water-based barrier coating which prevents moisture. “The cardboard tray makes a true alternative to plastic and foam trays,” says Jacques Bissonnette with Cascades’ Canada office. “Sustainable packaging is getting more important, enforced by retail regulations as well as consumer demand,” he added.

“In November of last year, we did a successful soft launch in Canada with the cardboard tray for mini cucumber. Just this month, a US customer started using the trays for sweet corn.” The product is available in a range of different sizes from 8 2/16 inches length, 8 11/16 inches wide to 1 11/16 inches height. However, Cascades also offers tailormade solutions. The tray is suitable for a wide range of fruits and vegetables, from Brussels sprouts to bell peppers, green beans, and much more. “The package will stand out even more if it is combined with a compostable top seal film, making it a fully sustainable solution,” Bissonnette added.

Telling the story
“We think it’s really important to tell the story how sustainable packaging can help to reduce the environmental footprint and achieve the retailer’s sustainability goals.” To support the story, Cascades has developed an LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) for all its product lines.

“This means we can tell the client exactly the amount of environmental footprint reduction they will be able to achieve with one of our sustainable solutions compared to the material they are using currently.” A lot of the current plastic packaging as well as foam packaging can be replaced by this cardboard solution and has proven to offer equivalent shelf life to plastic”. The new cardboard tray works with existing machinery and tooling for plastic trays, meaning that no extra investment is required for producers or packers looking to make the switch to cardboard.”

Cascades also invested in research on the consumer side. “It’s not only the demand for sustainability that has grown but also the willingness among consumers to put their money where their mouth is,” said Bissonnette. Most consumers are willing to pay a bit more for produce that is sustainably packaged. Also, better labeling on the packaging would encourage consumers to buy more green, sustainable packaging. “It is still a bit more expensive but both producers and retailers should not be afraid to raise their prices a bit. We are not talking about full dollars but just a few cents, ” Bissonnette noted.

For more information:
Jacques Bissonnette
Cascades Specialty Products Group
Tel:+ 1 514-378-0332

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