Bruised berries begone! New state-of-the-art technology at blueberry packing house

Bruised berries begone! New state-of-the-art technology at blueberry packing house

The Coffs Coast's blueberry powerhouse, Oz Group, is a cooperative with a membership of over 140 growers located from Grafton to Macksville.

And Oz Group's blueberry packing house in Coffs Harbour is now one of the most sophisticated in the country after a two-year, dollar-for-dollar federally funded $2.1 million upgrade.

Federal Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan visited the blueberry processing facility today and saw the new, highly sophisticated fruit grading, packing and handling equipment first-hand.

"The technology Oz Group now uses to pack and distribute berries is impressive with fruit being photographed and graded automatically by a sorting machine capable of photographing and categorising 260 berries per second," he said.

Oz Group CEO Adam Bianchi showing Federal Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan the new KATO grading and sorting machine which photographs berries eight times in order to grade and sort them at a maximum rate of 260 berries per second.

Oz Group CEO Adam Bianchi showing Federal Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan the new KATO grading and sorting machine which photographs berries eight times in order to grade and sort them at a maximum rate of 260 berries per second.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the Government's investment in this job-making infrastructure would provide long term benefits to the Coffs Coast region.

"In addition to the increased capabilities and cost efficiencies within the pack house, this investment will also enable Oz Group to be competitive in export markets and help distribute domestic supply," Mr McCormack said.

"By supporting 12 jobs in construction and creating an expected 12 ongoing jobs after completion, in addition to using local businesses and supplies, this project has helped to bring economic prosperity to Coffs Harbour."

Oz Group Chief Executive Officer Adam Bianchi said the advanced fruit grading, packing and handling equipment complete with metal detectors and checkweighers has brought the Coffs Harbour facility into the top tier of pack houses throughout the country.

"The use of these machines also means our workforce is becoming more and more skilled, it also means more local jobs," he said.

"This technology also supports our local farmers to become more competitive through improved packing efficiencies and providing higher quality fruit to the consumer."

This project received $1,050,000 in funding from the Australian Government under the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages program, a competitive grant program open to applications in 2017. Oz Group Trading provided $1,070,686 toward the upgrade.

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