Manitoba Harvest boosts efficiency, product quality, and reduces waste with new equipment

Manitoba Harvest has improved the efficiency of its raw hemp seed processing operations, and the packaging of finished products for shipment to retail by upgrading its equipment.

Manitoba Harvest (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) has improved the efficiency of its raw hemp seed processing operations, and the packaging of finished products for shipment to retail by upgrading its equipment. “We were experiencing issues with operations,” says Manitoba Harvest process engineer Eric Pilor, in a press release. “We had been using a bucket conveyor to move hulled hemp seeds into the milling process, but it was not designed for handling seeds. As a result, we were losing nearly 20 pounds (9 kg) of seeds every eight-hour shift.”

The issue is that hulled hemp seeds tend to clump and require gentle handling to avoid product degradation. In addition, plant space was limited, and dust needs to be contained to maintain plant hygiene. The company was able to improve productivity, product quality, dust control, and overcome space constraints by installing flexible screw conveyors, BFC Bulk-Out bulk bag dischargers and Twin Centerpost bulk bag fillers, all from Flexicon Corporation, Bethlehem, PA.

Two flexible screw conveyor systems replaced a vacuum conveyor used to move the cracked seeds to two screeners that separate hemp hearts from their outer shells. The new Bev-Con conveyors are designed to gently move difficult to handle materials, and consist of a rugged, flat steel spiral with a beveled outer edge rotating within a rigid, food-grade polyethylene outer tube. Within the tube, the screw self-centers to provide clearance between the screw edge and the tube wall, allowing the material to move forward without crushing or grinding.

“We get a consistent product and, compared with previous methods, we get consistent feed rates. Previously we had issues with clumping and material slippage,” says Samuel Leung, process engineer, in a press release. “All of that stopped when we installed our conveyors.”

Because the conveyors, bulk bag dischargers and bulk bag fillers are all enclosed, the plant environment is protected from dust contamination. To improve productivity, Manitoba Harvest invested in the flexible screw conveyor units with hoppers. Mounted on casters, the units move around the plant as needed to convey finished or semi-finished materials into bulks bags to proceed to packaging or further processing into hemp oil or hemp protein powder.

“The portable conveyors have made a big difference in our productivity and eliminated almost all of the waste,” adds Pilor.

Size constraints in the plant do not allow for maneuvering of a forklift, therefore, in the packaging area, bulk bags are loaded into BFC bulk bag dischargers. The dischargers are configured with an electric hoist and trolley that ride on a cantilevered I-beam to lift bulk bags from the floor into the frame.

For the manufacturing of hemp-based snacks and nutritional supplements, a different BFC discharger and flexible screw conveyor combination feeds a blender that mixes protein powder and other ingredients. The blender then gravity-discharges into the Twin Centerpost bulk bag filler on the level below through a sealed chute. Equipped with an inflatable connector to seal the bag inlet spout, and a feed chute outlet port, dust is prevented from escaping during the whole process.

As a major producer of hemp hearts, hemp powder, hemp granola, hemp bars, hemp extract, and other hemp-based products sold at over 16,000 retail locations in 22 countries, the updated bulk handling system has helped Manitoba Harvest maintain its leadership position.