“In summary, this project exceeded our expectations from the initial planning phase through the final production results, including surpassing our return-on-investment objectives in the very first year. All of our objectives related to capacity, efficiency, quality and cost reductions were achieved. In fact, within the first 30 days of operation, we hit our first production milestone, reaching the throughput rate (i.e., pounds per hour) that we had established for year end. The early successes boosted our confidence and enabled us to rely on the system to meet expanded production and quality goals."

Kip Yeates – Vice President of Fresh Operations - Wada Farms. 

Kip Yeates

A great start and a bright future

"Wada Farms has high demands and strict requirements for capital projects, and we have been extremely pleased with the entire project, including design, project management, installation, training and ongoing customer support. The overall project was excellent. The Ellips Group delivered a five out of five-star performance, and we had the pleasure of working with a world-class company. Any challenges that we've faced are hardly a concern because I am confident, we'll tackle them effectively together. I fully expect even improved performance that will support our growth going forward.”

What is the story behind this successful collaboration?

A leading potato grower committed to operational excellence and product leadership

“Wada Farms makes every effort to stand out by offering the highest quality potatoes and we continually make investments in various technologies to support those efforts. As a large grower and shipper of fresh potatoes, onions and sweet potatoes and a number of other fresh commodities, there are many challenges that come our way.”


Over the past few years, Wada Farms has faced the following challenges:

•    Based on labor availability and overall costs, we strive to enhance production efficiency.

•    To meet demanding customer standards, we focused on delivering quality product that was consistently sized and graded.

•    In order to avoid false positives and increase returns, grading accuracy needed to improve.

•    Sorting by hand is challenging; despite best efforts, humans can overlook details and make unintentional mistakes.

•    Mechanical sizing and manual sorting have limitations related to grading, product handling, capacity and the ability to meet ever-changing customer and market demands.

Every challenge creates an opportunity for a solution. This is Wada Farms’ story of how optical grading technology changed their business in terms of quality, capacity and labor reduction. 

Following are just some of the improvements that Wada Farms achieved:

✅ Labor related to manual sizing and sorting was reduced by 75%.
✅ Improved quality consistency and operational flexibility in order to more effectively respond to customer demands 
✅ Increased grading capacity by over 20%.

"Working with John was fantastic. He saw our vision and gave us autonomy in development and engineering, showing great respect. Not everyone listens to the customer like John did, and we truly appreciate that."

Kip Yeates - Wada Farms

Read the full story of the business transformation of Wada Farms


Potato Grading High Capacity Less Labor at Wada Farms

About Wada Farms

Wada Farms is a great example of what hard work and dedication can achieve. Founded in 1943 by Frank Wada, who immigrated to the U.S. from Japan in 1922, Wada Farms has become one of the nation's largest suppliers of fresh potatoes, onions, and sweet potatoes. They have strong partnerships across the U.S. and worldwide. Wada Farms offers a one-stop solution for produce buyers and the food service industry, with over 80 years of experience in growing, packing, shipping, and marketing support, all through one trusted partner. 

Potato Grading Machine Flexibility to meet any demand at Wada Farms

A large One-Stop Potato Shop 

“We're producing a wide variety of fresh potatoes, including russet, red, brown, and yellow potatoes, in lots of different varieties, shapes and sizes. Additionally, we're creating value-added products like microwave-ready items, easy grillers and tray packs wrapped in oil. Our building is around a couple of hundred thousand square feet, making us somewhat like a big-box store. This diversity allows us to cater to a broad range of retailers throughout the U.S. and in countries around the world.”

Top quality potatoes thanks to geographical diversity

“Our production management team is a key resource, boasting over 300 years of combined experience. We also benefit from a large, diverse farm base with multiple locations. This geographical diversity means we can experience different climate conditions, like hailstorms, varying rainfalls, and cold, all within the same growing season. This variety allows us to grow potatoes in both sandy and heavy clay soils, providing versatility in selecting the best quality produce for our fresh products. Additionally, we collaborate with many local growers, thanks to our excellent field manager who has strong relationships in the area. This approach ensures we consistently deliver premium quality potatoes.”

Potato Sorting Machine Product Handling of any Potato Variety, Size or Shape at Wada Farms

Main Goals and Challenges

The primary objectives to address include labor issues, consistent quality and increased operational capacity. Following are the key points associated with each goal:


1.    Reduce reliance on manual labor

“Due to the unavailability of labor and overall expenses, it is critical to reduce the dependency and costs associated with manual labor.    We constantly strive to improve operational efficiency. Managing technology, rather than relying solely on human labor, offers significant advantages. This comparison isn't meant to be disrespectful in any way and I deeply respect everyone who has sorted potatoes for our company.  However, it's simply a reality that sorting potatoes is a very challenging job and that technology can maintain focus and consistency for 8, 10 or 12 hours a day, which is difficult for humans to achieve."

2.  Improve quality consistency to meet strict requirements

“The market has strict quality requirements and little tolerance for imperfections. Even if potatoes meet the US number one classification, the cosmetic appearance of round potatoes is crucial. If a yellow potato isn't perfectly yellow or has any blemishes, the market will reject it. The rules and restrictions can be very challenging to meet. Thats why we also explored the potential for improved sizing and quality grading standards for potatoes. The new technology we've implemented significantly enhances grading accuracy, reduces false positives and improves overall precision. This accuracy allows us to meet customer demands more effectively by providing increased flexibility in sizing, quality and product mix ratios, something that our mechanical systems couldn't achieve."

3. Increase volumes to anticipate growth 

"The engineering design which aimed to increase capacity in anticipation of growth was a significant part of our plan. I don't typically break these things down, however, it's fair to say that the increased volume and range of sizes helped our marketing efforts and presented new possibilities.

Potato Grading Machine Quality Consistency at Wada Farms


What were the main motivations for choosing Ellips-Elisam?


1. Excellent product handling of different sized potatoes with big volumes

“First off, I needed an infeed system that was highly accurate and could handle a large volume of different sized potatoes. The Elisam potato grading machine meets these requirements with its seamless transition from our infeed system to the grader.  Via its precise alignment and transition speeds, the potatoes transfer gently to the roller cups and ultimately to the exit belt conveyors.  While on the grader, the potatoes are consistently rotated under the cameras to ensure the entire surface of the potato can be evaluated in order to better determine quality. Unlike other “flat belt” systems that handle round potatoes or similar fruits and vegetables, the Elisam grader doesn't require an additional transition after the vision system. These extra transitions disrupted the timing, especially for smaller products. Any bump or turn could significantly throw off the timing. While the equipment helped to reduce some labor, it still didn't meet my expectations or fully address our requirements. However, the Elisam potato grader clearly did.”


2. User-friendly grading software with professional training

Our operator team is very pleased with how user-friendly Ellips grading technology is, and the training they received from Ellips. Your ability to educate our workforce has been fantastic. You get them up to speed and have as service capability that fully supports their needs. Whenever they’ve needed assistance or had questions, the Ellips USA service team has been incredibly responsive. I haven’t had to intervene on service issues, which is exactly what I need since I want my team to have autonomy. Your team has always been available and responds instantly when my operators reach out.  As such, I don't have to micromanage at all which is greatly appreciated. This enables me to focus on production, efficiency and analysis when interacting with my team.  


3. Reliable and efficient grading machine

“For me, the most important factors were the vision system's ability to accurately size and sort potatoes in a single step without needing a transition after the vision stage. Another key factor was the cycle handling. Since we heavily use robotics and automated sorting for round potatoes, the ejection system's ability to manage all the cycles stood out. With small potatoes and robotics, you either run out of picks or need a lot of robots, which can be costly. So, cost, cycle efficiency, and potential annual maintenance were significant considerations in making this decision. That was also a big plus for Elisam.”

Streamlined project regardless of high implementation requirements

“We set high standards for this project and planned for three main challenges. In the end, everything turned out extremely well.”

1.    Engineering the project to fit our footprint: 

“Adapting the design to meet our specific requirements and desired diversity was a significant challenge. In my opinion, our vision, and the requirements we had were ambitious, perhaps even a bit unrealistic. However, John did everything he could to make it happen, and with success.”

2.    Executing within a tight timeframe: 

“We needed to transition seamlessly from using our old equipment to the new system without disrupting our commitments to growers and customers. This required an aggressive schedule, which we successfully met.”

3.    Training and Implementation: 

“Quickly getting our team up to speed with the new technology to ensure we could operate effectively and start realizing the expected benefits in a short timeframe was crucial. This also went very well, and I had full confidence in my team from the beginning.”

Smooth installation

“Once again, this aspect is incredibly crucial in this process. The installation team, led by Nikolas and his Elisam team, performed exceptionally well. They were among the best we've ever worked with—phenomenal, proactive, and resourceful. They approached the job with relentless dedication, exceeding expectations at every step, from initial engineering to installation, and even meeting an ambitious timeframe that many would deem unrealistic in today's context.”

Excellent customer service

“The level of customer service you provide is truly exceptional. We highly value this because genuine customer support is becoming increasingly rare. Being able to communicate with real people and receive almost instant answers is invaluable. With this ongoing support, we have nothing but the utmost confidence in your company. We strive to be recognized as a world-class company, and based on our experience working with you, I consider your company to be truly world-class.”


"Exceeding your expectations in the first year of a major investment boosts your confidence significantly. We hit our first milestone within 30 days, reaching the throughput rate we aimed to achieve after 12 months of operation."

Kip Yeates - Wada Farms

Following are just some of the improvements that Wada Farms achieved:

✅ Labor related to manual sizing and sorting was reduced by 75%.
✅ Improved quality consistency and operational flexibility in order to more effectively respond to customer demands 
✅ Increased grading capacity by over 20%.


Increasing capacity while reducing labor

“We've really enjoyed being at the forefront of this technology—it's been amazing. Our grading accuracy has enabled us to optimize the value of each potato while our ability to provide precise sizing for our customers has greatly improved. We've exceeded our capacity expectations. In summary, we met all of our goals from the initial planning to the final results which enabled us to achieve our return on investment in the very first year. We outperformed all our estimates. In fact, within the first 30 days, we reached the throughput rate that we targeted following a year of operation.  I was very pleased with that, as the learning curve is generally much steeper. By the end of the first month, we were hitting our target numbers which enable us to reduce our sorting and sizing labor by roughly 75%. We kept a few employees as a safety measure, but overall, our labor demand dropped significantly while our total capacity increased by over 20%. These two metrics—labor reduction and increased capacity increase—are the key numbers we focus on.”

Improved quality consistency and flexibility to respond to customer demands

"Ensuring the quality of red and yellow potatoes is essential to meeting the expectations of our customer base. Additionally, achieving precise sizing according to customer specifications is crucial, despite the variability inherent in industry standards. Throughout the year, various defects or quality issues may arise, each presenting its own set of challenges. Thats why we are really glad about our investment. Ellips technology ensures significantly enhanced defect detection that leads to greater consistency in quality and the flexibility to fulfill all customer demands.”

A fresh batch of challenges lies in detecting difficult defects.

High-demand items, like those susceptible to silver scurf or pressure bruising, require special attention. Especially as the storage season progresses. Detecting and addressing bruising is a persistent challenge. It significantly impacts the cosmetic appeal of potatoes, particularly yellow ones. Moreover, identifying subtle defects before they worsen is essential. These include small cracks or early-stage blemishes. As we encounter these new challenges, Ellips is continually able to deliver upgrades that will enable us to tackle them effectively. I have little concern about the challenges we've faced, and I trust in our ability to continually improve as we continue to grow and need to address future challenges.


“I've heard great things about the development and release of AI for potato grading this summer. We're excited to start testing it. It's like how a self-driving Tesla uses a neural network to learn on the fly. This AI system will also learn in real time, unlike previous models that required pre-uploaded data. This is exciting because the machine learning aspect means it will continually improve, especially with all the cycles it processes. In the Netherlands, they're building the model using a large data set to train it before releasing it for use. This AI will particularly enhance the detection of challenging defects and reduce the need for manual labor, as it's fully automated. That's the goal of Ellips technology, and we are excited about that.”

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