(March 9) New and improved pipfruit and potato baggers are among the recent highlights in the bagging and sealing equipment industry.

Ag-Pak Inc., Gasport, N.Y., has begun shipping a new pipfruit weigher and bagger made by Danish company Newtec, said Andy Currie, Ag-Pak’s marketing director. Ag-Pak is the U.S. distributor for Newtec.

The 2014AP is an improvement over other machines in several ways, Currie said.

For one, it’s faster. The Newtec bagger can pack 40 3-pound poly bags per minute, Currie said. That’s about 10 more per minute than other models, he said.

Second, the 2014AP handles product more gently than comparable machines, he said. That’s because of Newtec’s cradle collecting system. The triangular cradle swings from one end of the machine to the other, catching apples or pears as they roll down one of the bagger’s two conveyor belts.

Fruit rolls into the cradle, then into the bags, Currie said. With other machines, apples and pears are dropped from conveyor belts, which can cause bruising.

The 2014AP has other advantages, as well, Currie said. Bags can be replaced while the machine is running, saving users time, he said. And unlike other machines, the Newtec can handle pears as well as apples.

PILLOW, PYRAMID PACKS

Ag-Pak also has begun selling a vertical form-and-fill bagger made by Dutch company Jasa Packaging Systems that packs product in conventional pillow packs and pyramid-shaped packs. Ag-Pak is the U.S. sales agent for Jasa.

The pyramid-shaped packs will stand up regardless of which side is placed down, Currie said, and they’re perfect for apple wedges, grapes, cherry tomatoes and other small products.

It’s something new for the fresh produce industry to try, he said.

WICKETED BAGGER

Meanwhile, on the vegetable end, Affeldt Packaging Machinery LLC, Suwanee, Ga., has been enjoying strong sales of the wicketed bagger it unveiled last fall at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit in Atlanta. The bagger is perfect for potatoes and onions, said Jim Miller, president.

The bagger is fast, Miller said, but its real virtues are its versatility and reliability.

“The consistency in opening bags is where it really shines,” he said. “And it can run half-poly/half-mesh bags without changing parts or slowing down.”

Affeldt’s wicketed bagger can produce bags with zippers and other recloseable options, and can pack bags ranging in size from 3 to 20 pounds.

CARROTS AND MORE

Now in research and development at the company is a wicketed bagger that can bag carrots, Miller said. Affeldt also is working on a new machine that can seal bags with three kinds of closures — quick-lock, tape and heat-sealing. Other machines are capable of using only one or two kinds of closures.

Affeldt also has replaced the vacuum tubes in its machines with vortex generators that use far less electricity, Miller said.

“Utilities are getting more and more expensive,” he said. “To create a vacuum, the electrical consumption needed is quite high.”

The vortex generators Affeldt has installed in its machines require just a standard air compressor, which uses considerably less power than a vacuum, Miller said.