The Almond Board of California’s recently published its Almond Almanac, an annual year-end report that provides a glimpse into what makes up the California almond growing and processing community.
According to the report, one way that California almond growers maintain the quality of their almonds is through the management of insect damage, important to reducing inedible nuts and impacts on farmers’ bottom line. In fact, one of the statistics that illustrates the quality of the almond supply is the past year’s percentage of inedible almonds – which has dropped drastically over the decades, from an average of 5.74% in the 1970s to 1.31% in the 2010s.
The report notes that one of the major reasons for the reduction is research and industry adoption of winter sanitation, a process where almonds left on the tree after harvest are removed, eliminating habitat for crop-damaging pests. The report goes on to say that insect damage averages are at historic lows of less than 2%, a significant decrease from the 1970s, where values once reached 9% and averaged close to 6%.
It’s re-assuring that growers and handlers remain diligent in utilizing existing and new tools to help maintain almond quality, reducing both insect damage and aflatoxin.
That’s good news for growers and the food processing companies that use almonds as raw materials in their packaged products. However, these companies need to also take the next step and help ensure that not only are the almonds themselves of good quality, but the finished products are as well. That means no physical contaminants have entered the processing and packaging operations.
Getting tree nuts from orchard to table is a multi-stage process. When the crop is ready to be harvested, a tractor-like machine actually grabs the trunk of the tree and vigorously shakes it so the almonds fall to the ground. The almonds are then left on the ground several days to dry out; another machine then sweeps them into rows so a harvester can pick them up with a series of belts. They are then cleaned through the machine and dumped into a bucket in the back of the truck; hopefully most of the sticks and branches that have fallen from the tree are removed in the process. The truckload of almonds are then taken to the huller and sheller plant where additional debris, shells, and sticks are removed, and the nuts are cleaned and sorted via several pieces of heavy machinery so only the kernals remain. Sometimes rocks, metals, and glass particles are found and removed through the sorting and cleaning process.
To help ensure that none of these physical contaminants reach the customer, food processing facilities install x-ray inspection systems and industrial food metal detection equipment throughout the plant. Many nut processing plants utilize bulk x-ray inspection systems at the end of the production line to identify contaminants, gain efficiencies, recover more product and trim rework. As an example, at one facility, a machine was able to inspect more than 8,000 pounds of almonds per hour. (The machine’s maximum is close to twice that amount.) The almonds were stacked at a half-inch depth on the belt, which allowed the machine to detect metal pieces as small as 1 and 2 millimeters and glass and stones as small as 3 to 4 millimeters in size. (You can read the details in this white paper)
So how good are your almonds? Well, if you think they are picture-perfect, compare them with the ones you will see at the upcoming Almond Conference. For the first time ever, the Almond Board of California is hosting an FFA Almond Photography Contest. Members of California FFA were encouraged to submit their finest almond photography to the Almond Board, and all entries will be displayed onsite at The Almond Conference, Dec. 10-12, 2019.
We will also be at the Almond Conference, at the Buhler Booth, #837, demonstrating the latest technology for food weighing and inspection, including x-ray inspection systems, industrial food metal detection equipment, and checkweighers. Product inspection systems help provide the performance and service needed to ensure the quality and safety of products, help eliminate errors, and ensure the integrity of a brand. Even if you have good quality almonds, you have to make certain that the finished packaged product is of the highest quality as well.
If you can’t make it to the show, visit the Food Weighing & Inspection Equipment section of our website. You’ll find white papers, application notes and ebooks to help improve your food manufacturing operations.
The Almond Conference
December 10-12, 2018
Buhler booth #837
Cal Expo, Sacramento, CA USA
Follow the event on twitter using the hashtag #almonds or @almonds