Sorting System aids frozen and canned spinach processing.

Press Release Summary:

Integrating Iso-Flo® dewatering shaker, Flo-Belt, and Manta® 2000 series sorter, Wet Spinach Sorting System can sort up to 5.5 tons of finished product/hr. On Manta, spinach leaves are inspected by fluorescence-sensing lasers and top- and bottom-mounted Vis/IR cameras, maximizing removal of foreign material and leaf defects. With stainless steel construction, watertight double gaskets on doors, and sealed control panel, Manta operates in harsh environments and withstands high-pressure washdowns.

Original Press Release:

Key Technology Introduces New Wet Spinach Sorting System

Key Technology introduces its new Wet Spinach Sorting System for frozen and canned spinach processing lines. This integrated system includes an Iso-Flo® dewatering shaker, Flo-Belt, and Manta® sorter with laser technology and top and bottom cameras to inspect wet spinach after washing and maximize the removal of foreign material (FM) and leaf defects. Compared to sorting spinach before washing, this new system improves product quality and food safety while dramatically improving yield.

"Historically, most frozen and canned spinach processors have not automated sorting because the application is so difficult and, until now, the quality improvements often didn't justify the high yield loss. That's changed. With Key's expertise in product handling, conveying, and sorting, we've solved the old problems and in doing so, we've introduced a new paradigm for sorting on processed spinach lines," said Steve Johnson, Director of Marketing at Key Technology. "Compared to systems that sort prior to washing, our new system increases yields by up to seven percent while maximizing product quality."

After washing removes mud from the spinach leaves, the clean product is fed to an Iso-Flo dewatering conveyor that removes most of the water and spreads leaves to feed the Flo-Belt. With Flo-Belt, fast-moving air elevates and separates the spinach leaves to reduce surface water, eliminate clumps, remove heavy FM, and spread product to feed Manta. Together, Iso-Flo and Flo-Belt removes 96 percent of the water.

On Manta, spinach leaves are inspected by fluorescence-sensing lasers and top- and bottom-mounted Vis/IR (visible infrared) cameras. The cameras recognize color, size, and shape to detect a wide range of leaf defects and FM. The lasers recognize differences in objects' structural properties to detect FM. Combining cameras and lasers on one platform maximizes the sorter's capacity to remove unwanted objects such as insects, larvae, sticks, weeds, tree leaves, and product defects such as rot and discoloration. Two-sided viewing finds FM hiding under leaves. When the sorter identifies FM or a product defect, air jets pinpoint the object to reject and remove it from the acceptable product stream.

Featuring a Manta 2000 series sorter, Key's Wet Spinach Sorting System sorts up to 5.5 tons (5000 kg) of finished product per hour. For lower volume lines, Key can design the system with a Manta 1600 series sorter or Optyx sorter.

For processors that want to handle products other than spinach on the same line, Key's engineering team can design this flexibility into the system.

"The problem with not sorting is the high risk of food quality and safety issues and customer complaints. The problem with sorting prior to washing is that the sorter 'sees' mud on a leaf as if it were a defect and rejects these leaves, which results in a yield loss of up to seven percent," explained Johnson. "Until now, the problem with sorting after washing was that spinach leaves clumped together and couldn't be evenly spread for thorough inspection. We've solved that challenge with our Wet Spinach Sorting System. This solution allows processors to achieve the highest product quality with minimal yield loss."

Key designed its Wet Spinach Sorting System to achieve superior sanitation by reducing horizontal surfaces where debris can build up and eliminating overlapping surfaces that can trap bacteria. With stainless steel construction, Manta's watertight double-gaskets on doors, a sealed control panel, and easy access to areas needing periodic cleaning, the system is designed to operate reliably in harsh environments and easily withstand high-pressure washdowns. An integrated Clean-in-Place (CIP) system detects product on viewing windows and automatically clears the window without operator assistance to allow the sorter to continue operating at peak performance.

The patented, icon-based graphical user interface (GUI) is easy to learn and use, reducing operator training and simplifying optimum operation. Product settings can be stored and retrieved for fast product changeover. The GUI can reside locally on the system and can be accessed remotely via network or Internet, enhancing the flexibility in the operating environment and easing access for remote factory troubleshooting and application assistance. Sophisticated real-time and on-demand diagnostics help minimize and avoid costly downtime, and detect conditions that could compromise inspection.

For more information on Manta, visit

About Key Technology, Inc.

Key Technology, an ISO-9001 certified company, is a leading designer and manufacturer of process automation systems, integrated electro-optical inspection and sorting systems, and processing systems. Key® systems help processors to improve quality, increase yield, and reduce cost. With worldwide sales representation, the company maintains demonstration and testing facilities at its headquarters and manufacturing divisions in Walla Walla, Washington, USA, and at Key Technology BV in Beusichem, the Netherlands. The company's common stock trades on The NASDAQ Global Market under the symbol: KTEC.

Reader Inquiries:

Anita Funk

Key Technology, Inc.

150 Avery Street

Walla Walla, WA 99362 USA

Tel: 509 529 2161

Fax: 509 527 1331



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