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La Dona Fruit opens pioneering packhouse

La Dona Fruit opens pioneering packhouse, Valle Verde Packhouse Exterior © La Dona Fruit
© La Dona Fruit


The state-of-the-art facility will revolutionise the packing of Tahiti limes in Colombia, and launch La Dona’s exports to the USA and the Caribbean.

MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA, 13 OCTOBER 2020 – La Dona Fruit, a leading producer and exporter of fresh golden pineapples and tropical fruits in Latin America, is ecstatic to announce the official opening of its groundbreaking Valle Verde packhouse and coldstore for Tahiti limes in Apartadó, Antioquia, in the north of Colombia.

The inauguration took place on Thursday 15 October 2020 and could be viewed live via Zoom. The public and private sectors of Colombia attended, including Colombia’s Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism; Colombia’s Vice-Minister of Agricultural Affairs; the US Ambassador; and ProColombia’s Vice-Presidents of US Foreign Investment and Agro-Exports.

Equipped with the most advanced packing technology in Colombia, the 1,542m2 facility is one of the most innovative in Latin America. The state-of-the-art packhouse will cement La Donas objective of becoming the largest lime exporter in Colombia, and serves as the launchpad for exports to expand to the USA and the Caribbean, to complement existing business in Europe.


The pioneering packhouse is managed by agricultural investment management company Farmfolio, and has been built to bespoke specifications. The machinery features infra-red sorting, sanitising, drying, waxing, and classifying modules. This will enable La Dona to implement a highly automated and fast packing process, as well as homogeneous quality and sizes. By December, the facility will be certified by GLOBALG.A.P. and SMETA.

Dax Cooke, Farmfolios Founder and La Donas Head of Global Marketing & Sales, comments: I truly believe that Valle Verde will change the landscape for limes in Colombia for years to come! This packhouse is dedicated to limes first and foremost, and that is our biggest point of difference. Every other facility packing limes in Colombia is focused on avocados first. They are not able to screen limes accurately, they lack the logistical channels to distribute limes effectively, and they dont have agronomy programmes in place with the growers to guarantee consistently top quality limes. This is what separates La Dona Fruit from the rest.” 

Already, Valle Verde is gaining attention on the market. In the run-up to the grand opening, the team has received calls each week from importers eager to reap the benefits of a coordinated supply of high quality limes from Colombia.

Oscar Baracaldo, La Donas Head of Customer Experience, adds: Although Colombia has been exporting limes for nearly a decade, the sector presents high opportunity for disruption. After packing in third party facilities during the last year, we can now confidently say that we operate the best lime packing technology in Colombia. Furthermore, our Valle Verde packhouse is located strategically within Colombias Free Trade Zone in Urabá, which is close to two Atlantic ports. This awards us major advantages over our direct competitors in Colombia in terms of maximum product freshness, as well as tax-free machinery and electronic equipment.”

© La Dona Fruit

Launching Exports

The Valle Verde packhouse has the capacity to pack 1,000 tonnes of premium, richly-coloured, and extra juicy Tahiti limes each month for export to Europe, the USA and the Caribbean. 

Baracaldo reveals: Colombia can supply limes for 52 weeks of the year, and we will be focusing on specific windows to plug the gaps in global production from September to November, and from January to March.” 

La Dona has been eager to launch exports of Tahiti limes to the USA and the Caribbean, and the opening of the Valle Verde packhouse makes this possible. This summer alone, exports to Europe doubled in volume. Next, the group is looking to welcome more growers into the fold to help maximise capacity at the new packhouse as La Dona broadens its markets. From 2021, monthly exports will triple in volume to Europe, the USA and the Caribbean.

© La Dona Fruit

Cooke explains: Recently, we firmed up agreements for exports to begin to the USA in October. At the same time, were distributing to wholesale markets throughout Europe via our own La Dona channel. Overall, we are shipping 4-6 containers per week to the USA and Europe. Were also speaking with French, Spanish and Italian importers about establishing direct, fixed programmes year-round. We want to create stability on the lime market through fixed programmes with fixed prices to develop a sustainable business for the growers and our investors.”

The La Dona model is based upon establishing direct grower relationships, and its Tahiti lime venture Valle Verde is no different. 

Baracaldo comments: By having our own packhouse we remove the need for third party players. We buy the limes directly from the growers in order to pack and ship directly from our facility. As we expand the business for our investors, we will be supporting our lime growers to produce a superior product, and to enjoy a better quality life.” 

Currently, there are 450 hectares (ha) of limes under production within La Donas grower network, which will grow to 1,200ha next year as more farms come online. 

Baracaldo concludes: Our intention is to produce the highest quality limes in Colombia, with the most juicy fruit and delicious flavour, all year round. That way, we can achieve a better price for our growers, and a better offer for our customers. Colombia is a very young lime producer with the potential to become a considerable supplier. We look forward to solving more challenges along this journey.”

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Complete packing solution for dried fruit snacks

Complete packing solution for dried fruit snacks


A complete packing line solution from Ishida Europe has enabled an entrepreneurial French company to automate and bring in-house the packing of its dehydrated fruit and vegetable snacks, with the ability to increase throughput six-fold.

23rd June 2020 – Il Était Un Fruit, based in Montpellier, was founded in 2014 by Laure Vidal, who wanted to ensure her children were able to eat the required five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.  She devised a means of drying seasonal fruits from the region, such as apples, pears, strawberries and apricots.  In 2016, the company raised €1.2m to support its commercial development, including investment in equipment to industrialise the process.  Further investment is planned for 2020. In addition, in 2019 the product offering was diversified with the introduction of dried sliced vegetables, including a special Apéritif range.

Il Était Un Fruit’s products are sold in a variety of bag sizes for the retail sector – 10, 15, 30, 50 and 80g – as well as 1 and 2kg bags for specialist retail companies.  With the many different fruit and vegetable varieties, this equates to around 40 different product lines, requiring a fast and flexible weighing and bagging solution.

Initially the company contracted out its packing operation but when the decision was made to take it in-house, Ishida was selected for its ability to provide a complete solution for which it had total responsibility, as well as the company’s reputation for accurate weighing and reliable after-sales service.

The Ishida designed line comprises a 14 head CCW-RV multihead weigher mounted directly over an Astro 103S vertical bagmaker, which provides a compact and space-efficient combination, together with a DACS-GN-SE-012 checkweigher with integrated CEIA metal detector.

The RV-214 weigher incorporates a special C4 coating which prevents product sticking to the contact parts.  This ensures a consistent flow of the dried fruit and vegetables throughout the weigher.  Thirteen of the weighing heads are dedicated to the main ingredient, such as apple, while a small quantity of a second, high value item, for example fig, is manually fed into the fourteenth head and weighed. Once this individual ingredient has been weighed, the weigher combines it with the main product, delivering accuracy to within 0.02g of the target weight.

The intermittent motion Astro bagmaker features servo motors and software controlled variable seal time, jaw temperature and pressure to ensure a high level of precision.  Stripping plates clear the seal area before sealing which ensures good pack quality and servo driven and vacuum assisted pull down belts enable accurate and consistent bag lengths to maximise film use and optimise pack presentation.  
Nitrogen gas flushing is used to support the preservation and freshness of products that are naturally susceptible to air (oxygen) degrading the product, giving an ambient shelf life of around six to ten months depending on the product.

The weigher and bagmaker combination is currently running at 30 bags per minute on a 30g pack, well within its top speed of 70 packs per minute.

The DACS checkweigher and integrated metal detector provides a final quality and weight check.  Rejected packs are directed into two separate containers, depending on whether they are non-compliant in terms of weight or contain foreign bodies.
The checkweigher features an intuitive and robust display with an easy to learn menu structure that ensures quick and easy set up and is fully compliant with the European directive on measuring instruments.  

The checkweigher’s open frame design ensures easy cleaning and maintenance, including a complete washdown of the line every week.

“We are pleased with our investment,” comments Nicolas Rey, industrial director at Il Était Un Fruit. “The various machines have all lived up to their expectation, while Ishida’s after-sales service is quick to react if there is a problem. We are currently producing one million bags a year but are confident we can continue to grow because the line can cope with up to six million bags a year.”

Il Était Un Fruit

Il Était Un Fruit has developed a special technique for the drying of fruit and vegetables with no added sugar, additives or preservatives.  The fruit is sourced from eco-responsible orchards and organic fruit and vegetables are Ecocert certified.  95% of the fruit and vegetables are supplied by local growers in the Occitanie region.

The products are washed in water, disinfected, peeled, diced and then dried using a patented drying method developed in partnership with the CIRAD (French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development).  

The new Apéritif range has been developed in association with leading French chef Gérard Cabiron, recipient of the prestigious Meilleur Ouvrier de France.



Torsten Giese
Ishida Europe Ltd

Tel: 44 121 607 7700
Fax: 44 121 607 7740

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Two Major Innovations for Ecofriendly Exotic Fruit and Vegetable Packaging

Exotic fruit and vegetable printed

Action on plastic pollution: an environmental emergency

According to an Ellen MacArthur Foundation study, “the ocean is expected to contain 1 tonne of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight).” In response to that environmental emergency, the Environment and Community Ministry launched France’s National Plastics Pact on 21 February 2019.


Target: 60% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging in 2022 and 100% in 2025.


In the exotic fruit and vegetable sector, plastic packaging is a pressing issue that raises the challenge of developing eco-friendly solutions from the packaging to the labelling whilst maintaining the quality and traceability of fresh produce.

The company CAPEXPO is now making its contribution with two major innovations in exotic fruit and vegetable packaging and labelling, beating the official target by two years!




The patented process, which CAPEXO owns for France, makes it possible to print food-grade ink on the skin of almost all fruit and vegetables, adding a barcode, price or any other consumer information. The innovation heralds the end of excess plastic packaging and stickers for exotic fruit and vegetables and more. 

All exotic fruit and vegetables with a relatively smooth skin can be printed. Pineapple, for example, cannot. Grainy-skinned avocado can, but a barcode would not be legible enough to work properly at the checkout. It is possible to print the sale price, however. The printing process also adapts to the fruit’s ripeness to avoid any possible damage. 

Exotic fruit and vegetable printed

Food safety guaranteed 

The process involves patented, quality-tested food-grade inks — the same ones used in the pharmaceutical industry to coat tablets. 

End of checkout shrinkage

In store, on-fruit printing avoids the problem of differentiating between, for example, an air-freighted and seaborne mango, which have different sale prices, at the supermarket checkout. The process removes all possible confusion as either the barcode or price is shown on each individual fruit.



Ready to eat fruit sold in batches, such as ripe avocadoes or air-freighted bananas, needs punnet packaging to protect it and prevent checkout shrinkage. To replace the plastic film and punnet, which are at best recyclable, CAPEXO biocompostable packaging features cardboard sourced from sustainably managed birchwood forests, wrapped in a protective transparent film, which is also derived from birchwood, and heat-sealed on a flow-pack machine. That makes the punnet packaging fully biocompostable. Corn starch-based biocompostable films are already available. As they may not be 100% GMO-free, however, CAPEXO rejected that option as a precautionary measure. 

Home composting 

End consumers can throw the punnet and film away in their home compost bin, where they will naturally degrade in the same way as other compostable waste. Failing which, the packaging can be disposed of in a recycling bin.

Punnet traceability maintained 

CAPEXO biocompostable packaging enables ecofriendly product traceability with a batch number, origin, best-before date and all other information required by consumers using foodgrade ink.

Exotic fruit and vegetable printed


Founded in 1996, the company CAPEXO imports and markets exotic fruit and vegetables in France under the Lilot Fruits brand. A key player at Rungis International Market, CAPEXO provides a constant supply of delicious and nutritious produce to wholesalers and the wholesale markets as well as specialist (Grand Frais, Métro, etc.) and generalist (Carrefour, Casino, Monoprix, etc.) food retailers. 
Sharing the same high standards as its suppliers, CAPEXO selects produce from the finest sources. The company works closely with one of Reunion’s biggest cooperatives. 90% of the island’s air-freighted fruit is exported by Lilot Fruits. 
Victoria pineapple, avocado, mango, passionfruit, lime, etc. are just some of CAPEXO’s flagship products.

Source: Press release
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Spotlight keeps fresh produce innovation in focus

Biopac, McGarlet introduces completely compostable packaging
© Biopac, McGarlet introduces completely compostable packaging


As a launchpad for innovation in the international fresh produce business, Berlin’s annual FRUIT LOGISTICA trade show remains the preferred place for new ventures to be noticed by as many people as possible. For those visiting FRUIT LOGISTICA 2020 on 5-7 February, Spotlight – the show’s dedicated collection of world firsts, European premieres and event debutants – is an easy way to identify the very latest developments making their first appearance at the show.


© SoFruMiniPak® EcoView is made from renewable resources


sustainability centre stage

Sustainability plays a starring role in 2020, with several Spotlight stars reflecting what is a central theme across this year’s exhibition. Italian firm McGarlet, Poland’s Sofrupak, UK-based Keymac and Canadian company CKF will all unveil environmentally friendly packaging options. Dutch group VAM WaterTech will display its new water processing solution, which recycles water to protect the environment.
FRUIT LOGISTICA’s sustainability focus starts with the publication of a major new study into challenges faced by companies throughout the global fresh fruit and vegetable business, as the industry grapples with a series of environmental and ethical issues. Entitled “Do The Right Thing (Right)”, the FRUIT LOGISTICA Trend Report 2020 will be published during Fruitnet World of Fresh Ideas, the exhibition’s official curtain-raiser event, which takes place at Messe Berlin on 4 February.

A total of 81 fresh innovations from 14 countries – including 38 world premieres – are featured in this year’s Spotlight collection. Together with the annual FRUIT LOGISTICA Innovation Award, informative sessions on the event’s Future Lab stage and the return of last year’s successful Start-up Day, Spotlight is a shining example of the industry’s innovative spirit, providing media and trade visitors alike with easy access to the latest trends and products.

Spotlight is available in German, English, Italian and Spanish on the FRUIT LOGISTICA website.


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The European Packaging Forum: Congress & Get-together on May 14, 2020

The European Packaging Forum: Congress & Get-together on May 14, 2020

The European Packaging Forum is a precisely tailored congress event for the fruit and vegetable industry, focusing on marketing, sustainability, traceability, consumer and trade acceptance, innovative solutions, logistics, protection and functionality, hygiene and law. These are the topics that the experts from all stages of the value chain will be discussing on 14 May 2020 in Düsseldorf at Hotel Nikko Düsseldorf. This will be followed by the DFHV Annual Conference on 15 May 2020. 

The organisers – Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft (AMI) and Fruchthandel Magazin – will be addressing a central topic in the sector, which is not only being strongly discussed in the entire value chain, but also in society. A press release stated: “Since the recent pictures of dead whales and polluted seas make this topic difficult to be ignored. We want to tackle the challenges and take a close look at them in order to discuss and sketch out alternatives and solutions with the competent experts in the end and thus give the industry new impetus. We want to bring together the most important market partners in the European sector in order to objectify the discussion and jointly develop new ideas and strategies for contemporary solutions and offers for the entire value chain.”

Simultaneous translation is provided of the plenary sessions in German and English.

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Fruitful Italian expansion for Greefa

North Italy is one of Europe’s most productive area for apples and pears, and Greefa is a major player there, thanks to the expertise acquired in developing its state-of-the-art machinery and high-value sorting techniques.

Holland-based market leader in the fruit and vegetable sorting business, Greefa, has taken a big step into the Italian market, by setting up a new company in North Italy – the epicentre of Europe’s apple production.

In a press release, Greefa director Jan Nijland said the move was a logical step for the company, “as Italy has been a very important market for our grading and packing installations over half a century.”

North Italy is one of Europe’s most productive area for apples and pears, and Greefa is a major player there, thanks to the expertise acquired in developing its state-of-the-art machinery and high-value sorting techniques.

The new company, Greefa Italia, is a 100% subsidiary of Greefa, and its ultra-modern building – located in Lana in the Bolzano/South Tyrol region – is home to an extensive range of machine parts, forming the basis of a well-trusted support service for many existing clients in Italy and surrounding countries.

The establishment also houses the talents of a highly skilled team of technical and commercial staffers. Together, these Lana-based experts represent an invaluable centre, offering advice on the most modern and complete sorting and packing installations for apples, pears and many other types of fruit and vegetables.  

Since its inception in 1940, Greefa has grown from a small family business to a world market leader. Its installations, measuring systems and software are all developed in-house.

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Packing: small consumer trays

Packing trend: small consumer trays for strawberries & clementines, eliminating plastic punnets.

Trend: small consumer trays for strawberries & clementines, eliminating plastic punnets.

ACB Solutions
In-line weight control
The ACB Mini Control Weighing Machine checks punnet weights in-line for products that are packed as they are harvested, such as mushrooms or strawberries. The machine has two lines, each with five weighing scales. A LED system shows the level of over-or under-weight in the punnet. In this way, the operator can easily remove or add some of the product to achieve the exact weight. With 50 to 1000 g punnets, a single operator can check 60 units/minute.

BBC Technologies
Weigher-packer for blueberries

BBC Technologies, a blueberry grading and packing specialist, was presenting a dedicated weigher-packer for blueberries: the Curo-16, which fills the punnets at a rate of 220 punnets/minute with a precision of 3 g. It can handle different types of punnets or cups. The materials used and the short drops are gentle on the fruit. The machine is made of stainless steel for easy cleaning.

LDI 20 labeller
Bizerba supplies weighing, labelling and cutting systems and has just bought an Italian firm: Mac & Label. Mac & Label is based in Cesena and specialises in fruit and vegetable labelling. This acquisition will enable Bizerba to expand its range for fruit and vegetables. The new company, Bizerba Applicador System (BAS) aims to pursue growth particularly in Spain, Italy and France. It was showing the LDI 20 labeller, which can label up to 50 packs on 1 to 9 lines of fruit per minute.

Fast and compact tray-forming machine
Boix was presenting the Q-1800, a compact tray-making machine that can form and glue up to 1800 trays/hour. One new feature is that it can make up small trays (220 x 130 mm) with hoods (flat top sections), whereas standard tray-forming machines generally cannot manage sizes below 300 x 200 mm. It is also easy to use and access. No tools are needed for changeovers.

Integrated potato weighing and packing system
Ilapack offers a complete weighing and packing solution for potatoes and onions, in vertical bags with or without netting windows. The system combines a precision weigher with a versatile, easy to clean Vegatronic vertical packing machine.

Hands and fingers for robots and cobots
The Dutch company Koat creates hands and fingers for fruit- and vegetable-packing robots and cobots. The hands and fingers are manufactured with a 3-D printer. They are designed to adapt to different products and to be soft in order not to damage the fruit and vegetables.

Compact flow-packer
Redpack presented NTS, a versatile, robust and compact horizontal flow-packing machine. This machine can pack products of different sizes into flow-pack bags. Modules integrated under the packing line print the bag and stick labels onto it. Its speed is two bags/second. The NTS also has a very small footprint, measuring only 4.80 m long by 1.05 m wide and 1.45 m high, and is very robust as it is made entirely out of stainless steel. It is mounted on rollers, so it can be moved by two people, and it can be placed on a trailer for packing in the field.

Flow-packer that detects the length of the product
Reepack was presenting ReeFlow 250 PM, a flow-packing machine with an optical system for automatic detection of product size. This makes it highly versatile. The patented ‘planetary system’ for cutting and sealing developed by Reepack combines rotary and linear systems to reduce vibration. It can form up to 250 packs/minute, top or bottom sealed, with guaranteed sealing pressure.

Tray-making machine for trays with reinforced corners
The GD25 Develop presented by Sacmi is a machine for making up trays with reinforced corners. It has a new design and is easy to use. It can make up trays from as small as 200 x 300 mm up to a 600 x 400 mm size at a speed of up to 30 trays/minute. It is very compact and can also be mounted on a truck. Changing the size is a quick operation.

Octagonal box-forming machine
Gama TGO-4 Molde Octogonal makes up octagonal trays. It automates base and lid forming for octobins, which are mainly used for packing watermelons. The machine uses two types of glue: a hot one which sets quickly and a cold one that glues more slowly but more solidly. It has a capacity of 1200 pieces/hour.

Viscon Group
Cucumber grading and packing robot
Viscon Hydroponics, a hydroponic culture solutions supplier, also offers a cucumber grading and packing robot that can grade by weight and by size.