Compac Sorting Equipment Ltd. has become a major player in the optical scanning industry for U.S. fresh produce.

The growth of the Auckland, New Zealand-based company is impressive in that it rarely advertises its products and services.

“We’ve sort of been the quiet dark horse,” said Don Armson, U.S. market manager. “We’ve relied mostly on word of mouth.”

Compac has been selected to install its InVision 9000 optical scanning equipment at the University of California’s nearly 200-acre Lindcove Research Center in Tulare County, the state’s No. 1 citrus producing region.

“This University of California machine has every bell and whistle that we make,” Armson said. “It uses digital color cameras and digital infrared cameras in a synced system. Our software determines which technology sees the defects better and then uses that camera to define it.”

Researchers seek to identify the defects and to track performance of specific fruits and vegetables, tasks the Compac equipment and software perform well, Armson said.

The sorter also uses another camera wedded to an ultraviolet light source to “detect clear rot on citrus down to the size of a pinhead,” he said.

A near infrared light source is used in a separate, noninvasive application to determine sugar content and internal damage, Armson said.

The Compac equipment is scheduled to be installed in the Lindcove center in late September and will be up and running in time for the 2011-12 navel season, he said.

In 1998, the company established a sales, research and development and parts-service facility in Visalia, Calif., Armson said.

“At that time, we had zero lanes in the Pacific Northwest apple industry,” he said. “Today, 80% of the fresh apple crop goes across Compac equipment.”

The company also has made a major inroads into California’s citrus industry, with about 90% of the clementine market,” Armson said.

Compac optical scanners are in use at Sun Pacific Shippers, Los Angeles; Fowler Packing Co. Inc., Fowler; Muholland Citrus, Orange Cove; and, Wawona Packing Co., Cutler, he said.

Applications of Compac’s InVision 9000 system are not limited to apples and citrus, but the company is focused on fresh produce.

“We’re entirely fresh, Armson said. “We handle everything from cherries, avocadoes, apples and citrus to pomegranates, onions, tomatoes and potatoes.”