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New packingshed means higher-quality fruit and reduced carbon footprint for Chelan Fresh

by Kathleen Thomas Gaspar | November 01, 2010
Apples, pears and cherries, soon shipping from Chelan Fruit's new facility in Chelan Falls, WA, enjoy two things other fruit in the state may not.

First, the new packingshed lies within a small radius of Chelan’s orchards, which reduces handling and loading and results in better-quality fruit. Moreover, the proximity of orchards to the firm’s shipping facility reduces transportation time, cost and environmental impact, lowering the operation’s carbon footprint.

According to Mac Riggan, vice president of marketing for Chelan Fresh Marketing in Chelan Falls, "Most of our fruit is closer to our packing facilities than the other big four shippers."

Mr. Riggan said that the Beebe plant, which is located across the Columbia River from Chelan Falls, was purchased from Stemilt Growers earlier this year, and Chelan Fruit used the facility for packing and shipping cherries. Pears and apples will begin shipping from the new plant next year.

Reggie Collins, chief executive officer and general manager of Chelan Fruit, told The Produce News that 35 percent of the operation’s orchard acreage is within a 10-mile radius of the Beebe plant, 50 percent of the orchards are within a 30-mile radius and 100 percent of the orchards are within 100 miles.

The large building has the capacity for 46,000 bins of controlled-atmosphere storage and 14,000 bins of regular storage as well as capacity for 136,000 packed boxes. There is one 14-ton-per-hour red cherry line and additional room for two commit-to-pack lines. Plans are to move another line to the facility and expand with an additional sizer.

“We have plans to modify this [current cherry] line for quality handling and consumer packs,” Mr. Collins said, adding that a line from another shed will be moved to the Beebe location.

“Then we will pack all our pears on this line,” he continued. “When the pears are done around the first of the year, this line will then pack Goldens and Galas.”

He went on to say, “By purchasing this plant that is within a couple of miles of our main facilities, we were able to sell Pateros North, which is located 20 miles north. Ultimately all pears and apples will be packed and shipped from the Chelan area.”

Mr. Collins also noted, “We are replacing and improving the cherry sizer, remodeling our consumer packaging, increasing our capacity and our packaging types. And we will look at adding new-style scrubbers to our CA rooms, eliminating the need for lime and its storage and waste.”

While the improvements benefit Chelan Fresh and its customers, the environment also comes out ahead. Fewer miles driven mean fewer emissions, and Mr. Collins said that the operation is looking at energy efficiency through variale-speed fans, overhead doors and new lighting.