Irish family business parts with the old ways

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AN Irish family business has taken the decision to automate its potato processes after many years of the whole family labouring on the farm together.

Having already installed a Newtec weigher, an Upmatic stitching line and various rise and fall hoppers over the years, it has now automated the stacking of the bags of potatoes.

Bart Maertens, who for many years had worked along with his parents and wife on the family farm at Loughanure Clane in County Kildare in Ireland, said finding a solution was easier said than done. The Maertens have a market for a variety of different size and weight bags of potatoes, and another factor that needed to be taken into consideration was the varieties of potatoes that the Maertens family grows.  

Some of the Irish varieties are more prone to bruising, especially during the winter months so the family was keen to ensure whatever solution they went with was able to carefully handle the potatoes to prevent damage or bruising.  

They have now opted to install a Verbruggen machine - only the third such machine to be installed in Ireland. The palletiser has been equipped with special padding to ensure soft landing and handling of the potato bag, and the machine's stacking chambers provide the capability to deal with smaller bags.

Bart said it had been a huge leap of faith for him because it was a large cash outlay for such a small family farm, particularly as the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions meant he was unable to visit the factory floor to see the machines in operation, but he believes it will greatly improve operations.

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