After a little over two years on the market, packing line scanning equipment designed by MAF Industries Inc. specifically for lemons is already in five countries.

Traver, Calif.-based MAF hired Juan Ibarra, a physics PhD with a specialty in optics, specifically to create better packing line scanning technology for lemons, said Denny Bilton, the company’s national director of sales.

Ibarra had been working for Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Sunkist Growers Inc., but when he joined MAF, Bilton said the company gave him a “clean sheet of paper” to design a new system for lemons from the ground up.

The result, introduced two years ago, is Lemonscan, a system for lemon defect grading. Customers include Ventura County, California-based Fillmore Piru and Ventura Pacific and customers in Argentina, Mexico, Spain and Bolivia.

“It all started with a vision by our technical team and some willing customers,” Bilton said. “It’s an incredible new machine for the lemon industry.”

Lemonscan scanners have the capacity to grade 900 pieces of fruit a minute per packing-line lane, Bilton said.

One of the things customers tell MAF they like most about Lemonscan is its convenience.

“They’ve told us how easy it is for their operators to learn and to use,” Bilton said.

Independent tests commissioned by MAF have shown not only how good Lemonscan is at recognizing defects, and but how consistently it recognizes them, Bilton said.

Another benefit of Lemonscan is its flexibility. MAF can work with customers to design a packing line equipped with Lemonscan from the ground up, Bilton said, or customers can use Lemonscan’s module on an existing carrier, even if that carrier was made by a MAF competitor.

Lemonscan has no moving or adjustable parts, its operator interface is intuitive and flexible and its modular construction allows for maintenance without stopping production, Bilton said.

The scanner checks for color, variegation, canker, botrytis and green tips.

Defect scanning is not a perfect science, Bilton admits.

“There are always going to be mistakes, but we think we can minimize them with this new system.”