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Eagle Eye Produce Inc., headquartered in Idaho Falls, ID, has solidified its position as a year-round grower and shipper of watermelons following its recently announced acquisition of John Livacich Produce, located in Corona, CA.

"That bridged a gap for us in having a year-round program," Eagle Eye Produce President Newman Giles told The Produce News. "Both companies have a long history and a good customer base."

Eagle Eye Produce is well established as a year-round grower and supplier of fresh onions and potatoes. Chief Operating Officer Shane Thomas said that the company is currently looking at land to launch a California Bell pepper deal.

Mr. Giles said that the partnership with Livacich was facilitated by John Gee, Eagle Eye's national retail director.

"John was very close to John Livacich," Mr. Giles said. "John brought the melon program to Eagle Eye. He was the one guy who brought us both together." With California product added to its offerings, Eagle Eye Produce has moved to a seamless transition in its watermelon program. "We already had a strong watermelon program in Nogales [AZ]," Mr. Gee said.

Domestic production begins in early May in Brawley, CA. Production moves to Hemet, CA, in June and continues into early October. At that time, Mr. Gee said, the Nogales program ramps up.

In all, Mr. Giles said, Eagle Eye Produce has more than 1,000 acres in watermelon production in California. "We are definitely the largest [grower] in the Imperial Valley," he said. "We own and finance 100 percent of our watermelons."

Watermelon, marketed under the "Eagle Eye" label, is conventional at this time, but Mr. Giles said that the company is looking at the organic sector. All three production locations are equipped with optical sizers to meet customer specification. Product is sold in markets from the Western to the Midwest. Customers can choose to arrange their own transportation or contract with Eagle Eye Logistics to get product moving.

Eagle Eye Produce uses "HarvestMark" traceability technology to ensure that its produce meets the highest standards while reducing the risk of foodborne illness.

"All watermelons can have the 'HarvestMark' sticker if customers request it," Mr. Giles said of the value-added program.

The Livacich facility has been prepared for third-party auditing.