TheNBP Factory

Equip Picvisa
Equip Picvisa

Picvisa: artificial vision for waste sorting

The technology company, with a workforce of 35 employees and revenues of 7 million, is located in the DFactory of the Zona Franca in Barcelona.

Tons of waste arrive at a recycling plant, often well sorted, but often not. Distinguishing which ones have been mistakenly thrown in the yellow or green container is one of the main tasks of the technology company Picvisa, with clients such as Ecoembes, Ecovidrio, Ferrovial, FCC, Urbaser, Efacec, Bianna, Leblan, Valoriza and Verallia. To do so, the Barcelona-based company uses artificial vision, a field of artificial intelligence (AI) that allows information to be extracted from images or videos and decisions to be made based on this data. In a recycling plant, with the belts running non-stop, this technology makes it possible to digest a glass bottle and reject a can in a matter of seconds, blowing it out or dropping it to remove it from the circuit when that is not its place.

“It works like the human eye,” explains Picvisa CEO Joan Manel Casamitjana. Through cameras, the company analyzes the composition of the waste that passes through the belt, sending it a light that, depending on whether it crosses the material or bounces it, determines whether it has to be there or not. The company applies artificial vision, enriched with deep learning, to separate different types of waste, mainly plastic and glass, but it detects that fabrics are starting to gain weight. “In 2024 we will focus more on textiles. It is going to be one of the new recovery models, taking into account that today it is a material that goes to the landfill and is burned,” says Casamitjana.

This new model will not only involve reusing clothes, as has long been the case in second-hand stores, but also recycling the material of the garments, separating it according to its composition, shredding it and remanufacturing it. In fact, an increasing number of major brands are now detailing on their labels that the pieces are made from recycled cotton and polyester. There are even backpacks made from plastic bottles.

Picvisa pilots all these changes in the world of recycling from DFactory Barcelona, a new economy and industry 4.0 center promoted by the Consorci de la Zona Franca de Barcelona (CZFB). With a track record of 20 years, the company has been part of the Calaf construction group since 2012, with offices in Sant Joan Despí. “It was a more traditional environment and the run started that it wasn’t the most suitable place. When they started building the DFactory, we were approached about the possibility of moving here and, before the construction work was finished, we had already moved in,” recalls Casamitjana.

With a staff of 35 employees, Picvisa’s CEO appreciates that the new location allows them to be close to robotics, data analysis and 3D printing companies, “a much more natural environment” for a technology company like his. “It makes it easier for us to collaborate and learn about new technologies,” he remarks, “it’s a hotbed of innovation and we’re closer to industry.”

From software design to machinery maintenance

The strength of Picvisa, recently accredited with B Corp certification, is the development of all the necessary software programs to apply its technology in any plant, adapting to each machine and the different waste recovery processes. The fact of being integrated in the Calaf group allows them to also cover the design and manufacture of the machines that execute their technology, as well as their commissioning and maintenance.

This flexibility, both to adapt to different plants and to cover the entire process, allows them to reach many countries beyond Spain. The company has a strong presence in Europe, operating in France, Italy, Portugal, Malta and Denmark, but also in Latin America, in countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Guatemala.

Since 2018, the Barcelona-based technology company has recorded profits, after undergoing a process of redefining its business strategy with the entry into Calaf. In 2002, it recorded a turnover of 7 million euros, a figure it expects to surpass in 2023, exceeding 8 million euros.