Customer testimonial

Elsoms Seeds, United Kingdom

Elsoms Seeds thrives  with SORTEX amid EU’s 50% pesticide reduction.

Following the European Commission’s 50% chemical pesticide reduction, UK-based Elsoms Seeds decided to invest in a Bühler SORTEX optical sorter. Elsoms is now removing ergot, fusarium and weed seeds with unmatched ease. The company is also processing a wider range and varying quantities of seeds, while welcoming a new customer-base, thanks to its latest ‘bespoke solution’.

Established in 1844, Elsoms Seeds Ltd is the largest independent seed breeding business and supplier in the UK. “If you buy your vegetables from a supermarket or corner shop in the UK, it’s most likely been treated by us!”, states Philip Ayres, Seed Treatment Technical Manager at Elsoms Seeds. As a family-owned enterprise based in Lincolnshire, Elsoms started off as a rope making company before transitioning into a seed business. Since after the First World War it has been owned by the Keeling family to breed, supply and treat high quality vegetable and agricultural seeds throughout the UK, using the latest in plant breeding research and seed technology.

Approximately 115 employees work together to process billions of carrot, parsnip and onion seeds and many tons of red beetroot seeds every year. Elsoms deals directly with farmers and the companies that sell seeds to the farmers.

“We handle third party seeds from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, France, Holland and Argentina. We also breed new varieties of seeds to export to New Zealand and Australia for bulking. In total, we send seeds to over 30 countries,” Ayres says.

Preparing for a sustainable future

In 2020, in a bid to boost sustainable food production and consumption, the European Commission proposed a Farm to Fork strategy – featuring a 50% reduction in chemical pesticides over the next decade. “While this is indeed a positive step in the direction of sustainability, by reducing pesticide use, a greater portion of crops will be destroyed by pests and diseases if growers don’t have access to advanced technologies that can properly clean their seeds,” states Ayres.

This is one of the main reasons why Elsoms took the leap from mechanical to optical sorting and invested in a Bühler SORTEX optical sorter. “The SORTEX machine has allowed us to clean up several large seed lots that we otherwise would not have been able to handle,” says Ayres.

The benefit of Bühler UK’s local nationwide presence enabled demonstrations to be carried out even when there were severe travel bans on international travel due to COVID-19. Alex Vaks, Area Sales Manager for Bühler, says: “Our strong local presence effectively facilitated the development of the project during those difficult, restricting times. The demonstrations we carried out and the face-to-face dialogue we were able to maintain made the decision for Elsoms to invest in the new technology much easier.”

A necessity for contaminant removal

The stand-alone sorter allows Elsoms to detect and remove immature or contaminated seeds and other foreign contaminants with a high degree of confidence.

“Our seeds must be free from everything, that’s why we went with SORTEX: to get the highest quality seeds. It allows us to remove weed seeds and fusarium, which have historically been difficult to eradicate, not to mention ergot which is particularly problematic due to its highly poisonous properties,” says Ayres.

The optical sorter has also enabled the company to clean seeds that it previously didn’t have the technology to handle. Vaks notes: “Elsoms has been able to remove black charlock weed seeds from yellow mustard seeds – a difficult task as the seeds are exactly the same size. This has vastly improved the quality of the seed lot for the final customer.”

Ayres adds: “Indeed, a number of new customers have been in touch saying that they have seed lots that they’re unable to clean. Others have seeds riddled with ergot and fusarium that they don’t have the resources to remove. Now, with the sorter, we’re in a position to help them.”

Tailored to Elsoms' needs

Ayres mentions: “We can process three or four tons of  crops like parsley at a time by splitting the seeds into binsOr alternatively, we can process lower quantities like a singlebag, by using small trays. This allows us to work with seed lots of various sizes.”

He notes that the machine is very quick and easy to clean and swap between crops, such as mustard and wheat. “Conversely, other machines we’ve tested in the past have taken an entire day to clean!” he says.

“We’re also building up a library of unique programs for our crops which saves a lot of time and helps to customize the machine for us. The sorter is far from your typical ‘off-the shelf machine’, it has adjusted to us from day one like a bespoke solution,” Ayres concludes.

Our seeds must be free from everything, that's why we went with SORTEX: to get the highest quality seeds

Phillip Ayers, Seed Treatment Technical Manager, Elsoms Seeds

Easy Decision

The SORTEX A's versatility and precision has given Fairking significantly enhanced capability, which continues to open up new business opportunities.   

Peter remains impressed with Bühler's after sales support. "Now with the machine in operation, we're benefiting from excellent support – in person and remotely over the internet. This has been truly valuable to us. Bühler's service engineers make operation completely effortless for us. We considered other options, but we recognised that the SORTEX A addresses all our requirements, so, the decision was easy," he concludes

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