Suffolk-based maltster Muntons says it is the first UK maltster to invest in a colour sorter to reduce contamination issues in malting barley deliveries ahead of further processing.

The company has invested £600,000 in buying and installing a state-of-the-art Cimbria colour sorter to detect and remove contaminants from cereal deliveries.

The new machine uses LED lighting, dedicated software and special cameras to identify foreign material, which is ejected and collected separately. Using the colour sorting system will allow Muntons to clean and process malting barley deliveries that would otherwise have been rejected. It says this will reduce truck movements while ensuring farmers will be able to sell their load as premium quality, rather than finding an alternative use for it.

Muntons estimates that the system would have saved over 340 wasted truck movements in the 2016/17 marketing year. That was one of the worst on record for cereals contaminated with ergot, a fungus poisonous to humans. Ergot is difficult to remove using traditional methods as it is often the same size and shape as a cereal grain.

Mike Norfolk, Muntons’ supply chain general manager, said: “In the past, farmers who had deliveries rejected because of ergot contamination would have had to have taken the load to be cleaned by a specialist company, which would have involved additional haulage, as well as the cleaning cost itself. Now we are able to clean the load on-site for the farmer, saving them wasted haulage costs and wasted time.”

“This is a bold and innovative move for the malting industry, yet is one which will bring benefits both now and for the future.”