By Rowan Forster
Father-son potato growing duo Guido and Robert Cerchiaro from Nar Nar Goon will be the first packers in Australia to trial new X-Ray technology.
Funded by a $350,000 Coles Nurture Fund interest-free loan, the Cerchiaros will also be helping the environment as the equipment will be powered entirely by solar panels.
After conducting extensive research in Europe and America, the Cerchiaros decided that introducing the X-Ray Vision technology in Australia would enable Red Gem to provide the highest quality global standards.
The use of X-Ray vision during the assessment process is expected to deliver substantial quality improvements by identifying common defects such as insect holes, growth cracks, hollow heart and excessive dirt clumping.
The new technology will also enhance the efficiency of potato sorting and sizing.
Currently, sizing, grading and quality control of potatoes is completed by mechanical sizers, manual grading and inspection, and relies heavily on random checks and small batch sampling.
Guido Cerchiaro said that the $350,000 loan from the Nurture Fund would enable Red Gem’s dream to significantly change existing processes in the potato industry and bring it into line with international standards.
“Thirty seven years of industry experience has demonstrated that today’s market needs us to be responsive rather than reactive to customer demand and build world’s best practice when it comes to the sizing and sorting of potatoes,” he said.
“We concentrate on adding value, quality and innovation, and most importantly we are always focused on the taste of our potatoes. We think the new machine will increase Red Gem’s overall efficiency by 30 per cent.”
Originating in Gembrook, Victoria, Red Gem Growers & Packers has been growing and supplying potato varieties to Coles for more than 30 years.
Coles Chief Operating Officer Greg Davis praised Guido and Robert Cerchiaro on their dedication to the project and their vision for the potato industry and its customers.
“Since we established the Nurture Fund, we’ve been so impressed by the level of innovation shown by small to medium Australian businesses around the country,” he said.
“We’re delighted to support Red Gem’s vision to enhance the quality of their produce to customers.”
Red Gem’s project comes three years after Coles launched the $50 million Nurture Fund to help small to medium Australian business to innovate and grow.