Potato Packer Folson Farms in North-Dakota guarantees potato quality

Folson Farms potato grading large capacities

Folson Farms potato grading large capacities

Febrero 16, 2024

Folson Farms works to produce quality potatoes in the rich soils of the Red River Valley. 

The Company wants to provide customers with a consistently quality product.

Over the past few years, Folson Farms faced the following challenges:

  • You sometimes have difficult batches.
  • The type of defects that affect potato quality vary from year to year.
  • With hand grading it’s difficult to achieve the quality you want.
  • Labor is hard to find.
  • The throughput per hour was not sufficient to handle the potential volumes.

Every challenge has its solution. 

Following are just a few of the improvements that Folson Farms achieved:

  • Increased quality consistency
  • Improved production capacity to expand business potential.
  • Created a reliable, efficient operation that is less dependent on labor.

Casey Folson, Sales and Marketing at Folson Farms:
 

"Ellips-Elisam stood out for its gentle potato handling, unmatched quality consistency and throughput. Our operations are now more efficient with fewer labor requirements and higher capacities."

About Folson Farms

Folson Farms is a fifth-generation potato grower. In 1952, Richard 'Bud' Folson incorporated his own farming venture in East Grand Forks, Minnesota. The company involves growing, washing, packing and shipping a variety of mostly table-stock potatoes and primary focus is still on producing fine red potatoes.

Potato quality with stunning appearance and excellent taste

Folson Farms located in the Red River Valley, which is known for its deep black rich soils that produce high-quality, deeply colored red potatoes and nice clear skin yellow potatoes. Most of the producer's red potatoes and a significant portion of their yellows are grown on dry land acreage.

Folson grows three different red varieties and four different yellow varieties and sells them in 3, 5, 10, 15, and 20-pound polybags, as well as in bulk potatoes in cartons, sacks, and totes.

Quality potatoes is key as a premium brand

Folson Farms offers a premium brand for the fresh markets. Primarily for retail and food service distribution. Poly bags go to retail while 50 pound sacks and cartons are for food services, primarily restaurants.

The major impact of weather conditions

Since Folson Farms is dry land potato farmers with little access to irrigation, rain plays a critical role in the crops grew by them each year. There is also variability in the results. Too much rain is not good, because potatoes suffocate, drown or sufer from growth cracks.

Too little rain, potatoes don’t have the moisture required to grow properly, and the ground can become very hard and damaging to the potatoes. There are other critical factors, such as soil condition, that can cause potatoes to be more susceptible to scab and certain diseases, so the harvest result, quality vary year to year. 

Elisam grading Solutions at Falson Farms

Elisam grading Solutions at Falson Farms

Main Goals and Challenges

The primary objectives are to address labor issues, ensure consistent quality, and increase operational capacity. Here are the key points for each goal:

Being fully operational and delivering orders on time, independent of labor issues. At Folson Farms, certain batches of potatoes with numerous defects necessitate extensive manual sorting labor to achieve desired quality levels. The objective at Folson Farms was to enhance efficiency by substituting labor with "smart" technology, with the aim of operating with fewer personnel.

However, finding labor proved challenging, impeding the ability to pack the desired volume. Grading all the necessary potatoes presented difficulties due to inconsistencies in both product and staffing. Thus, Folson Farms sought smart automation solutions, particularly an optical grading machine, to address these challenges.

Casey Folson:

"Automation has enabled us to grade our produce much faster than with manual labor which has increased efficiency and reduced labor costs."

Ensuring consistent quality regardless of batch variations

Ensuring consistent quality regardless of batch variations is a primary objective. Even when confronted with challenging lots, the focus remains on maintaining uniform product appearance. At Folson Farms, efforts are dedicated to cultivating high-quality potatoes in the field. However, seasonal variations in weather and conditions beyond our control may result in differences in quality.

Each season yields a mixture of high-quality and lower-quality potatoes. It's imperative to feel confident in shipping visually appealing products meeting the correct quality classification. An intelligent optical grading machine aids in mitigating this annual variation in quality by offering a comprehensive view of the entire surface of each potato.

Deal with different defects

Also, the type of defects can vary from year to year. Folson Farms may encounter a multitude of issues such as greening, scab, or growth cracks. The company's aim is to detect all these defects and consistently deliver a quality product. This enables Folson Farms to avoid rejections and maintain a strong brand reputation.

Casey Folson:

"Customers will have full confidence that they will receive a quality product that looks and tastes great while ensuring a consistent quality experience."

Process more potatoes to increase capacities

Folson Farms wanted to improve throughput to handle a larger amount of potatoes. Increased volume helped transform the business's efficiencies and profitability. While it's essential to sort quickly, it's equally important to handle the potatoes delicately.

Folson’s Finest premium quality potatoes must be preserved, as any damage results in devaluation. Therefore, the grading machine must effectively and gently handle the different sizes and shapes of potatoes. Typically, red potatoes are smaller and rounder compared to larger and more oblong yellow potatoes.

Casey Folson:

"The operating speed of the system should not degrade the quality of the images created and utilized by the optical grading machine. In order to achieve optimal grading, the entire surface of the potato, including all quality characteristics, needs to be clearly reflected in the images."

What were the main motivations for choosing Ellips -Elisam?

Achieving the best quality consistency and throughput

Folson Farms had a strong conviction that Ellips-Elisam could achieve the desired goals. The company has proven that its grading and sorting technology outperforms other systems in the market, particularly concerning crucial goals such as quality consistency and increased capacity.

Delicate product handling

Potato handling is crucial Folson Farms in the business, and the machine and roller cups impressed with their gentle treatment of the potatoes. The Elisam grader provided the necessary 360° rotation and handling speed, ensuring potatoes were delivered without damage.

Partnership with John

John demonstrated exceptional helpfulness, responsiveness, and informativeness throughout the collaboration with Folson Farms. He guided the company through the entire process, ensuring that Falson Farms felt comfortable and confident in achieving its objectives.

His genuine interest in Folson Farms' success was evident as he facilitated the timely arrival, correct assembly, and optimal performance of the equipment. With his extensive knowledge and experience, Folson Farms had complete confidence in his leadership from start to finish.

Training to get the most out of technology

Obviously, Folson Farms wanted to get the most out of its new investment from day one. As expected, there was a learning curve with the new technology. However, Ellips provided very user-friendly software, and with training and guidance from Ellips USA technicians, Chris and Brandon, Folson Farms quickly learned how to achieve the desired results.

Both Brandon and Chris spent time with the company in the control booth to assist in learning and optimizing the software to identify defects and achieve the desired end-results. Within a couple of weeks, all programs were set up, and Folson Farms was able to make the necessary adjustments to optimize grading results and process flow. Based on the training and support received, the company felt comfortable with its ability to run the system to its fullest potential. 

Results

Casey Folson:

"Our operation has changed dramatically since the implementation of the new machine. It transformed our operational efficiency and helped create new market opportunities. We are able to be more responsive to our customers' demands and can quickly react to differences in harvest quality. Regardless of product quality, we can run at full speed and deliver required volume in spite of the difficult labor market."

Following are just some of the improvements that Folson Farms achieved:

  • Increased quality consistency
  • Improved production capacity to expand business potential.
  • Createdd a reliable, efficient operation that is less dependent on labor.

Increased quality consistency to guarantee brand reputation.

Each year, Folson Farms faces different defects that must be dealt with. Ellips’ technology aids in managing these variables and still delivering the quality demanded by customers. Unless there is a real shortage of potatoes, the company can now provide sufficient product that meets those expectations. Folson Farms' ability to deliver consistent results helps retain existing customers while expanding its market potential.

Maximize the value of the harvest

Folson Farms can now grade and sort its potatoes so they end up in their rightful categories. Previously, a number 1 quality potato may have been sorted as a number 2 quality or vice versa. With Ellips grading technology, Folson Farms has minimized these occurrences while also reducing the good potatoes that end up in the waste stream. This capability has helped the company maximize the value of its crop.

A reliable, efficient operation that is less dependent on labor.

Folson Farms has achieved much greater efficiency compared to its previous operations. The Elisam grader enables the company to process more product through the packhouse with fewer people. Folson Farms no longer struggles to meet order deadlines as it now takes less time to complete tasks. Most importantly, customers can rely on the technology to deliver the quality desired by each of them.

Future

While Folson Farms has concentrated on expanding relationships and volumes with existing customers, the company is also attracting new customers. Importantly, the new technology and operational improvements enable Folson Farms to deliver the product quality and volumes demanded by the market.

John Albert, General Manager at Ellips USA

Tel: +1(206)-915-4962
john.albert@ellips.com
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