With chipping potato seed coming in, chipping potatoes being shipped out and the spring farming that happens in the fields near our sheds, our campus in Malin is hopping with activity. With much of the action happening around our sheds and cellars, we thought this might be a good time to share with our readers some of the changes we made to our processing plant that were mentioned in our post about the 2017 Open House Field Day.
During the shed tour, Plant Manager Matt Thompson shared some of the improvements that had been implemented during the summer of 2017. Focused on employee safety, food safety and efficiency, Matt was excited to share these changes. So what exactly was added?
The first thing Matt shared was three in-line scales had
been added to the production line. Three scales may not seem like a big deal, but these scales allow us to track production flow in live time. Working like a ticker, they weigh the chipping potatoes as they cross each scale. Now our packing shed can track the pounds of potatoes being processed per minute, and we can be more accurate about the weights of potatoes we’re shipping on behalf of each grower and to judge the yields of each field.
For safety – and efficiency – Matt pointed out the huge digital readout on the on the scale at the southend of the shed as the second improvement. This scale is easily readable from across the production floor, which not only saves him time from having to check the weight of the chipping potatoes being loaded into the trucks, it also keeps him and other employees from having to make their way through the storm of activity.
The last item Matt shared was the Fortress Metal Detector that was installed on our export line. Why a metal detector in a potato packing shed? Though it extremely rarely it happens, metal objects can sometimes get in with potatoes we ship. This metal detector can pick up on any metal object – from a tiny piece of copper wire or soda can tab to a bolt that was picked up in the field. If the metal detector senses an item, it stops the line and dumps the product before it goes into the large bags of potatoes we export. As of this post, has the metal detector picked up anything? Not yet. But to make sure it’s working, every morning before production starts Matt uses tools that came with the metal detector to ensure it’s working and able to detect any sort of metal that passes through it. The plan is to buy two more metal detectors for the bulk line and the In-N-Out line to ensure all areas or production are checked before potatoes make it into packaging or trailers.
Whether it’s creating systems, updating our farming practices or looking to technology to improve our operations, Gold Dust and Walker Farms are continually looking at how to do things more safely, more efficiently and more effectively. While there may be upfront costs to our businesses, these innovations help us in the long run to remain a sustainable farm and business.