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Affordable Folding Robot is a Game Changer for Growers Using Sustainable Produce Containers

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Sun Sugar Farms develops the "FoldBot" to make assembling their biodegradable packaging faster and easier for mid-size growers.

VERONA, Ky. - eTradeWire -- It's an ugly fact that billions of plastic produce clamshells end up in landfills each year. It was also enough to drive tomato farmer Linda Fritz of Sun Sugar Farms to create an alternative. Her Sustainable Produce Containers use a flat paperboard design that helps her company compete with plastic on price. The package is also easy to stamp or print on, eliminating unrecyclable labels. Small farmers can hand fold the boxes and - for larger growers buying millions - a full-size automated forming machine is available for around $55,000. But mid-size growers were stuck in the middle. They didn't have time to fold thousands of boxes nor the money to buy the big machine.

Enter the "FoldBot".

After researching ideas, Fritz reached out to the nearby University of Cincinnati. An engineering student group took on her senior project challenge: build an affordable tabletop folding robot. After their design won first place, she hired the student who'd come up with the main concept to help her build the different size robots, now dubbed "FoldBots". The result is a sleek folding process using simple components in a cost-effective 3D printed shell. While it might have taken half a day to individually fold a thousand containers, with the FoldBot it can be done effortlessly in less than an hour. The price? $2,500.

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The very first FoldBot (https://sunsugarfarms.com/product/sustainable-produce-container-folding-robot-foldbot/) was built for a commercial organic blueberry grower in the state of Washington.

"It's been a game changer," says Ezra Ranz, owner of Bow Hill Blueberries. "Everyone is excited not to hand fold anymore. We also don't have to apply labels since our containers are custom printed, plus the boxes fit into our automated fill line. Best of all, we're getting great customer feedback about the switch to plastic free packaging."

The Sustainable Produce Containers are especially popular with gourmet mushroom growers across the country. Avery Hughes of High Country Fungi in North Carolina is happy for the help packaging the hundreds of pounds of mushrooms they sell weekly.

Hughes explains, "For the past 4 years we've folded every single one of our boxes by hand and at times it was overwhelming. Linda has worked tirelessly to create a box folding robot, it's already saved us ample time and it works flawlessly."

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The lightweight FoldBots come with free design upgrades, financing options, and a 3-year warranty. Fritz says she is thrilled to be a supplier to companies committed to sustainable packaging and to offer a solution that makes their jobs easier. Next in development? A hopper to stamp and feed the flat containers into the FoldBots.

Linda Fritz

Source: Sun Sugar Farms, LLC
Filed Under: Agriculture

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