On April 30, the Augustin company celebrated 33 years of organic cultivation on its own fruit farm in the heart of the Alte Land region, as well as the 25th anniversary of the marketing company Bio-Obst Augustin & Co. Parallel to these celebrations, the new premises including sorting and packing station for organic pome fruit in Jork’s industrial park ‘Ostfeld’ were also inaugurated. Co-managing director Hinrich Quast gave us a tour of the brand new hall together with Matthias Kinzel, project supervisor at machine supplier Palm Systems.
With the move to the modern headquarters (total area: 3,500 m²), the Augustin company was able to realize a considerable increase in capacity. The heart of the new premises is the highly automated sorting and packaging area covering a total of a good 1,500 m². The other premises accommodate empties areas (400 m²) as well as cold storage and ULO areas (850 and 140 m² respectively) for stored goods. The ULO warehouse is divided into four rooms, each with a capacity of 50 tons. The new location is completed with a total of 400 m² of office and staff space.
Side by side: Matthias Kinzel (l) from neighboring company Palm Systems was on hand to provide Hinrich Quast with advice and support right from the start. “About 80 percent of our machine portfolio is used at this location,” says Kinzel. His neighbor agrees: “Our Demeter apple expertise and Palm’s technical know-how form the basis of this unique project.”
The numbers and performance capacities of the new sorting and packaging equipment are all impressive. “We can sort up to twelve tons of apples per hour at peak times, as well as up to 2.5 tons of pears per hour. For packing loose or laid goods, we have been able to increase our capacity to three to four tons per hour. We also have a separate packaging line for foodtainers with an integrated Sikafruit sealing machine from Silcoplan with a cycle rate of around 40 to 50 trays/minute,” Quast calculates.
Automation 2.0: From automatic crate emptying to state-of-the-art sorting and packaging technology.
During the sorting process, not only the appearance of the organic apple but also its inner values are checked several times.
Sorted apples in the storage channels of the sorting machine.
The organic fruit Augustin & Co. exclusively markets produce from a total of ten farms. The majority of the volumes will go directly to the German natural food trade, a small part is also exported to the Benelux countries and Scandinavia. “We were able to bring in a huge apple yield in the past growing year. Looking at the stock, we will normally succeed in catching up with the new crop,” says Quast, describing the current destocking. At variety level, Elstar and Topaz are expected to be sold out by the end of the month. Natyra, Jonagored and Red Jonaprince, on the other hand, will be available until the end of the season.
The first half of the season in the fall was extremely slow from a marketing perspective, Quast continues. “Since the turn of the year, demand has then gradually increased again, although prices should still be somewhat better in view of the considerable cost increases. We have had to accept about a doubling of storage costs, for example, due to the increase in electricity prices and the expanded cooling capacities at the new location, which is cushioned to some extent by the photovoltaic system. On the sales side, fruit is less in the consumer’s focus, which is clearly due to inflation. We are observing that the classic organic buyer group is reorienting itself, which in turn is to the detriment of the natural food specialist trade.”
The packaging area with three packaging lines.
Separation area of the Elisam sorting machine with Ellips sorting software
Although the core competence of Augustin is still the preparation and marketing of organic apples, pears are also prepared for the natural food trade on a secondary basis. Pictured: Palm crate fillers.
Deichperle and Xenia: the pome fruit of tomorrow?
In the past decade, the variety of offerings has also increased rapidly in the organic apple sector, Quast says. “The organic Deichperle variety has interesting growth potential, especially in early fall marketing. At the moment, the total marketing volume is around 150 tons. The harvest volume of the scab-resistant variety Freya is around 150 to 200 tons, while Natyra is also gaining importance with around 250 tons.”
Compared to apples, with a total handling volume of 9,000 to 10,000 tons, pears, with around 250 tons per year, have more of a supplementary character at Bio-Obst Augustin. Quast: “However, we are aiming to increase our volume to 400 to 500 tons over the next five years, with a continued focus on Conference and Xenia. Xenia joins Conference’s marketing window because of its good storability, making it particularly well suited for the second half of the season.”
Crates are fed to the sorting and packing lines from above.
Hinrich Quast at the outdoor area of the new location.
Organic apples from the Alte Land in a water bath.
For more information:
Bio-Obst Augustin GmbH & Co. KG
Ostfeld 25 – 21635 Jork
T: +49 (0)4162-90018-21
Palm Maschinen GmbH & Co. KG
21635 Jork, Duitsland
Tel: +49 4162 90 79 9-0