Fowler Farms packaging automation

In 2010, an Automac A33 automatic wrapping machine, supplied and commissioned by PACKIT, was installed at Fowler Farms in the Dargle area of KZN, to
pack its range of fresh produce. “It’s a challenge to automatically wrap trays
containing spherical products such as lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli,” explains Packit’s
MD, Hugh Bosman. “Our A33, manufactured by Gruppo Fabbri in
Italy, is one of the few machines that can accomplish this.

Following a few modifications to prevent products from rolling in the machine we now have a number of A33s achieving this for our customers.

In fact, the more the machines work the better they wrap,” Hugh adds. Fowler Farm’s machine has demonstrated the value of automating its packing process to the
extent that Bobby Price, the farm’s manager, notes: “This is a fantastic machine. I’d really
like to get a second machine just like it!” He adds that Fowler Fars has achieved significant
savings on film, while packing efficiencies have also improved.
Bobby reports they ‘run the machine very hard’. ‘Initially, we had a few small teething problems
but, in the two years that we’ve had this machine, Packit has only carried out one
service to replace belts and one or two other
small components’, he reports.

According to Bobby, a lot of effort and planning went into the pack shed’s layout and putting the correct conveyors in place to feed the machine and take finished products away. ‘The homework we did to find this solution from Packit was well worth it and reflects in the success of the machine,’ he adds. Another success factor is the number of different settings on the machine. ‘Our tray wrapper has 99 possible programmes and Packit’s technicians pre-programmed the machine so that we can simply select the best programme for the product being packed,’ Bobby enthuses. He’s amazed that more farms have not automated their pack sheds, believing that farmers simply have to automate in this day and age. Hugh agrees.

‘Farmers seem not to understand the savings that can be made in film costs, the option to redeploy workers to other tasks and the reliability of machines such as the Automac A33. Payback is usually well
within three years and the machines last for at least 10 years. In fact, we have Automac machines that have been running in pack sheds 15years and longer,’ Hugh concludes.