Challenging acquisition and takeover to become a leader in modern-day colour-sorting technology
When you are successful, others would like to share your success. Ten years of steady growth of the Italian SEA Group, which introduced the color sorting in the Italian market in 1970, led to expect more and more ambitious results from themselves.
Today, under the Cimbria brand, this Italian company"s desire to lead the industry in this development remains undaunted and finds itself teamed-up with a major international grain handling and storage company.
Milling and Grain stopped -off in Imola, Italy in mid-April to meet Michela Pelliconi, the export sales director for Cimbria SEA, which is now part of the American AGCO Group.
Ms Pelliconi joined the company in 1985 when it was SEA Italy, and since then has helped to continue its remarkable growth in the development of electronic colour sorters which the company has remained loyal to since the inception and its first machine in 1970.
Although the Cimbria mechanical cleaning technology was well-known in Italy since many years, it was not until 2012 that it recognised that the SEA Group offered the "missing link" of colour sorting technology in its grain and seed handling profile.
From the small Danish village of Sundby Thy and under the guidance of the three Olesen brothers 71 years ago, Cimbria had grown into a group consisting of more than 900 employees, with offices, dealers and agents throughout the world. Today, Cimbria remains a one-stop-shop and one of the world"s leading suppliers of drying, conveying, storage, sorting and seed processing technology.
However, like SEA, Cimbria"s success had not gone unnoticed and shareholding and acquisition has been a part of its growth and activity since 2007 – which included entities such as EQT, AXCEL and Silverfleet - and culminated in 2016 when it was acquired by the large American ACGO Group.
AGCO itself is a global leader focused on the design, manufacture and distribution of agricultural machinery. AGCO products are sold through five core brands, Massey Ferguson, Challenger, Fendt, Valtra, and GSI. The later operating in the same business sector as Cimbria. Going forward it is easy to see that Cimbria and GSI make a perfect match to challenge the world"s biggest and most technologically advanced supplier of products and systems for grain storage and seed processing industry.
With 20 production facilities on five continents and local sales representatives worldwide, AGCO has an unmatched global footprint and global reach.
Innovative solutions in sorting
With our range of optical sorting systems, Cimbria offers innovative sorting solutions that are customised for the task at hand. The sorting systems are fully automatic and harbour the latest technology, ensuring both high quality and efficiency, whilst keeping the quantities of rejected seeds and grains to a minimum.
Many of the SEA staff remain from the days prior to the rush of acquisition. In 2010 the company employed just 30 staff, today it employed 70. And they enjoy the fact their subsidiary is back in the industrial sector with industry-led development and motivation.
When Milling and Grain made its impromptu visit in mid-April, all the latest colour sorting machines were on display for testing purposes in its laboratory including the latest SEA Chromex, an evolution from the SEA Chrome with full-colour RGB 4096-pixel cameras that ensure the industry"s highest level of optical resolution of 0,06 mm. It has infrared cameras (NIR and InGasAS) and shape-sizing systems that in addition to other options are capable of separating any defective grains and foreign bodies for the most challenging sorting tasks.
SEA Chromex sorters run set up to 16 filters with double camera RGB set-up with up to four VGR frequencies. All four cameras are working together and have the capacity to combine the RGB full-color technology with NIR and InGaAs, with wheat sorting up to 7 tonnes per channel.
For example, the machines can sort barley from wheat without relying on InGasAs cameras, which is however available fo absolute security.
"Our machines are the top of technology at this moment, the best ones on the market with the highest technical edge. Over the past two or three years we have become a strong competitor in the area of RGB," says Ms. Pelliconi.
Cimbria colour sorters have between one to seven chutes on four types of frames - from one to three, five and seven.
All the machines are produced in Imola. Cabling, mounting. assembly, calibration and work with customer prior to shipping is all carried out in the one location.
Going where the grains are
In electronic sorting terms, the company has seen most growth is in North and South America, Europe, Maghreb and Africa.
"The world has changed over the past 30 years. Who will be the big players in another 30 years? That"s a question too difficult to answer, however, we are focused on staying ahead in terms of technology and meeting what the customer demand," says Ms Pelliconi.
"Since 2012 the company has been through three acquisitions, and now the company is part of the AGCO industrial group and we can focus on what we do best."
Not everything is related to sorting simple grains. Other more complex crops require different and more challenging sorting solutions.
"One of our key markets we serve are coffee producers. In the past the green beans used to be sorted at processing, but today that has shifted to production locations with colour sorters being located at the large producer establishments," she adds.
And that means the company must travel and exhibit in more of the individual coffee producing countries rather than just at the large European food exhibitions, for example.
"For the grain and feed industries it is slightly different again", she says. "The colour sorting machines can be simpler in their operation and do not require all the high-technological advances that is now available.
"However, for food and seed processing it"s another story," she adds. "There, all the latest advances do play a role in ensuring clean products."
As if to stress the importance of client support, we were shown the company"s service department where a team of technicians deal with customer queries and software updates for machines.
"Our people in the service department are remotely connected and service machines to improve efficiency. The reliability of our machines for all customers, particularly those furthermost away, is very important to us," she adds.
While the later SEA Chromex can accurately separate grains with different spectral properties to secure the highest purity and food safety, overall it is not one single technology that keeps processed products clean from aflatoxins and other contaminants. "It"s still a combination of technologies, mechanical as well as electronic, that provide us with the best results," says Ms Pelliconi.
by Roger Gilbert, Publisher, Milling and Grain