Key Technology will exhibit VitiSort™, a new optical sorter for red wine grapes, at its Unified Wine Symposium booth #1917. VitiSort combines a patent-pending mechanical MOG (material other than grape) removal shaker and optical sorting with an integral juice recovery system on one compact system to achieve world-class sorting performance at a unique level of affordability. As the lowest cost optical sorting system on the market, it replaces traditional manual sorting and helps wineries improve their product quality while redirecting labor to other tasks.
Ideal for wineries producing 5,000 to 50,000 cases per year, VitiSort sorts up to 5 tons (4.5 metric tons) of red grapes per hour. The system removes any unwanted objects such as insects, skins, raisins, shot berries, stem jacks, petioles, leaves, and other MOG from the product flow, which enables the winery to better control the quality of must going to their fermentation tanks.
Key conducted several successful full-season field trials with wineries in various growing regions in North America, Europe, and Australia to verify the effectiveness of VitiSort. Pepper Bridge Winery and Chateau Ste. Michelle are among the wineries that have used VitiSort for more than one vintage.
“With its MOG shaker and optical sorter combined, VitiSort is very effective at improving the quality of our must. If it’s not removed, MOG will release a bitterness – a harsh tannin – to the wine. Removing the non-grape attributes like this will improve the quality of our wine,” said Jean-François Pellet, Winemaker at Pepper Bridge Winery. “Thanks to this system, we’re able to receive, sort, and crush 3 ½ tons of grapes per hour with only four workers. One is overseeing the operation, one is feeding product to the system, and two are sorting out leaves before the destemmer. It’s hard to say how many people we would need without VitiSort – maybe 15 or 20, I’m not sure – but it’s virtually impossible to achieve this high level of MOG removal at the volume we’re doing with manual labor.”
Ray McKee, the Red Winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle added, “With Key’s VitiSort, we’re removing 99.9 percent of the MOG while sorting 4 to 5 tons of grapes per hour with two and a half workers. The effectiveness of the technology allows us to use machine-picked grapes and put only berries and pure juice into fermentation. It gives us exceptional quality control to end up with a very rich and dense wine that doesn’t have the tannin from green stems and leaves.”
The stainless steel VitiSort is compact and mobile, designed to easily roll into position under the destemmer so fruit automatically flows from one machine to the other. The two-stage VitiSort features a mechanical MOG removal system followed by an optical sorter.
First, a vibratory conveyor gently shakes the grapes to separate MOG, which falls through uniquely designed slots in the shaker’s screen, along with juices. MOG is accumulated on a sloped surface for easy disposal, while the juices are recovered for reintroduction to the must. Singulated grapes freefall from the end of the vibratory conveyor into the sorter, presenting a “sheet” of product that allows a camera to inspect each grape. A specially designed drip tray keeps juice out of the camera line-of-sight. The sorter quickly analyses the images, comparing each object to previously defined accept/reject standards. When unwanted objects are identified, the sorter activates the ejector system, which is made up of a series of air jets that span the width of the system. While still air-borne, the air jets pinpoint MOG to reject and remove it from the product stream. Grapes are discharged from the sorter into a trough or screw conveyor for delivery to the fermentation tank.
“The MOG shaker is very effective at removing insects and shot berries, which reduces the load on the optical sorter and improves its performance. The optical sorter takes out stem jacks and other MOG,” added Pellet. “It’s a very simple, gravity-fed system. Since it has no belts, it’s easy to use, easy to clean, and easy to maintain.”
Compared to sorters that feature horizontal belts to inspect product on a horizontal plane, Key’s VitiSort inspects product on a vertical plane to dramatically simplify the operation while achieving the same results. VitiSort offers a smaller footprint, improved sanitation with the elimination of belts, gentle handling with fewer transitions, and a new level of affordability.
Compared to manual inspection, VitiSort improves the consistency of MOG removal to better control the quality of the must going to fermentation tanks, while reducing labor costs. VitiSort can do the work of 8 to 12 people or more. The yield loss associated with VitiSort is only 2 to 4 percent, depending on the grape variety and the effectiveness of the destemmer.
Key designed ease of use into every aspect of VitiSort. A color touchscreen control panel features a graphical user interface where the winemaker can adjust the sort parameters to remove more or less MOG to meet his exact needs. Product settings can be stored and retrieved. Open access to the MOG collection area eases its removal while stainless steel construction eases sanitation.
VitiSort can function alone with the destemmer or combined with Key’s Grape Receiving and Inspection Platform (GRIP) upstream of the destemmer.
VitiSort builds off Key’s 65 years as an innovative designer of world-class food processing equipment and expertise in sorting and vibratory conveying. VitiSort is based on Key’s sixth generation sorting technology, which has been field-proven at thousands of demanding food processing plants around the world.
For more information about VitiSort, visit www.key.net/products/vitisort.
About Key Technology, Inc.
Key Technology, an ISO-9001 certified company, is a global leader in the design and manufacture of process automation systems including digital sorters, conveyors, and processing equipment. Applying processing knowledge and application expertise, Key helps customers in the food processing and other industries 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 in Beusichem, the Netherlands and Hasselt, Belgium. The company’s common stock trades on the Global Market tier of The NASDAQ Stock Market® under the symbol KTEC.