Optical sorters have improved to the point they can take out almost all of the fusarium-damaged kernels in a load of wheat.
They can also take wheat and barley kernels out of oats so it can meet standards for gluten-free products.
The machines can be set for up to eight standards, including colour, grain shape, length and thickness, says salesman Dale Anderson of Intel Seed in Manitoba.
Prices for the Chinese-built machines are $175,000 US for a 10-chute version and $99,000 US for a three-chute model. Seven-chute machines cost $147,000 US and five-chute models $128,000 US.
Another $40,000 will add electronic sensors so the machine can be monitored from a cellphone or laptop computer.
Don Campbell, another Intel Seed partner, recently told Manitoba Co-operator newspaper that each chute can clean about 100 bushels of grain an hour, although volumes vary depending on how much material has to be removed and how difficult it is to do.
Ergot bodies, which are black, are easier to remove than fusarium-damaged kernels, for example.
Intel Seed is able to reduce fusarium-damaged wheat kernels from 12 to one per cent.
“It’s really used for upgrading grain,” Alderson said. “It’s increasing the selling value of the grain.”
Pedigreed seed growers and retailers, elevator operators are potential optical sorter buyers, but Alderson said they’re and organic farmers are all buying them.
Organic farmers can’t use herbicides for weed control, so this machine can get rid of weed seeds.
Alderson said their sorter is user friendly. An operator can choose materials it will remove and the machine will take before and after pictures.
“The machine automatically calibrates itself for the initial setting and then you just increase or decrease the sensitivity,” Campbell said.
“They have a camera in front and back so if a kernel is bad on one side you can detect it. Plus you can put in shape and length and thickness. Besides the colour sort I believe there are eight different parameters that you can put in and it can sort just one or all eight at the same time.”