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Specialist packaging equipment supplied by Marco is said to be playing a vital role at The Co-operative Group’s newly commissioned strawberry-packing plant in Longforgan, near Dundee.

Marco supplied its Trac-IT data management system, Linemaster checkweighers, in-feed and out-feed conveyor systems, a high-speed twin-top labelling machine and end-of-line packaging equipment.

The new plant represents a total investment of more than GBP2m and has been specifically built to pack local ‘Grown by Us’ strawberries from the group’s own farm at Blairgowrie.

The Co-operative Farms, part of The Co-operative Group, supplies Co-operative food stores with ‘Grown by Us’ produce.

The Longforgan plant has a seasonal throughput capacity of around 800 tonnes, equating to more than three million punnets.

The manual packing of strawberries requires a fine balance to blend operator speed and accuracy, with the added need for careful handling to avoid any fruit damage.

Accurate and repeatable packing is also essential, with each gram of giveaway per punnet at Longforgan representing a loss in profit equating to around 3,000kg of fruit in a season.

Rob Hull, The Co-operative Farms’ head of vegetable operations, recognised that the efficiency of the punnet-packing process would be vital to the operation and evaluated different options and suppliers, including site visits around the country, before choosing the Marco solution.

Marco has developed technologies to optimise yield control and to ensure that line control labelling parameters are strictly adhered to.

By constantly monitoring each and every pack weight, the Marco system can fine-tune settings to consistently maintain target weights within fractions of a gram.

Operators have to react to a red-amber-green traffic-light system, without the need to monitor actual weight readings.

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