Boggiatto rolls out Iceberg Babies at retail

SALINAS, CA -- Boggiatto Produce, based here, has rolled out is Iceberg Babies at retail after a successful introduction in foodservice.

The product was introduced at retail in April and is currently being distributed in the western United States with plans to go national this summer, said Boggiatto Controller Joann Glennon.

For retail customers, Iceberg Babies come two in a bag with 20 bags per carton.

The variety of Iceberg lettuce is about the size of a softball. Iceberg Babies have the same crispness but not the denseness of full-sized Iceberg lettuce and are sweeter, according to the company.

Boggiatto Produce is the only U.S. grower licensed to grow and sell the baby heads of Iceberg lettuce.

Restaurants in Los Angeles and Las Vegas have picked up the Iceberg Babies, and a national restaurant chain has added the item to its menus. Ms. Glennon said that the item "got off to a fantastic start," at foodservice.

Beat Giger, the corporate chef for Pebble Beach Resorts, has created recipes using Iceberg Babies, and Mr. Giger's recipes appear on Boggiatto's web site (www.boggiatto.com). As part of the company's marketing strategy, Mr. Boggiatto has become a sponsor of the DiRona Guide, which puts the company on the radar screen of many restaurateurs.

Garlic: mystical, magical, medicinal and mouthwatering

In ancient times, long before antibiotics and other pharmaceutical products, garlic represented the entire pharmacy to humans because of its broad spectrum of health benefits.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information, the genetic sequence database of the National Institutes of Health, provides a wealth of information compiled at its National Library of Medicine.

There is evidence that garlic is one of the first plants to have been cultivated by man. Indigenous to middle Asia, its exact origin places it specifically in western China. It is believed the Sumerians (from 2600 to 2100 BC) brought it to China, and it later spread to Japan and Korea.

Varying ancient beliefs of the health benefits of garlic have remained unchanged throughout history. It is revered for its medicinal properties in many guises in cultures worldwide, such as Russian penicillin, a natural antibiotic and plant talisman.

Garlic was a valuable commodity as trade evolved across Eastern Europe, and production was quickly adopted in India, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Africa and middle Europe, particularly in Italy and France.

It reached the United Kingdom in the 14th century and was introduced to North America in the 16th century. Its popularity began to increase in the United States in the 1920s.

Throughout history, garlic was used for a nearly endless list of medicinal purposes. Ancient Israelites used garlic as a starvation stimulator, blood pressure enhancer, body heater, parasite-killer and more.

Owing to garlic, in 1720 a thousand inhabitants of Marseille were saved from the spread of plague. In 1858, Louis Pasteur wrote that garlic killed bacteria, even highly resistant strains.

In the early 20th century, medical research confirmed that the antiseptic properties of garlic were beneficial in reducing the spread of cholera, typhoid fever, influenza and diphtheria.

Ongoing scientific research by accredited institutions resulted in the NIH reporting that garlic shows evidence of having a wide range of health benefits. Some reports claim protection from common cold, beneficial effects on LDL cholesterol, decreased blood pressure and more, including that it has proven to be active against sarcoma in laboratory rats.

In conclusion, the NIH states that garlic is the plant necessary in everyday life from past to present days. It contains active compounds that are responsible for its effect on almost every part of the human body. Data compiled to date suggest that garlic should be consumed as much as possible.

Garlic’s use throughout history includes mystical and magical beliefs. People of many Mediterranean countries wove garlic into necklaces and wore them as protection against evil spirits and against enemies. It is listed in nearly every religious text around the world. The Talmud prescribes a meal with garlic every Friday, and the Bible mentions that a meal with garlic and cheese is to be consumed by reapers.

According to the Agriculture Marketing Resource Center, or AGMRC, compiled by Hayley Boriss of the Agriculture Issues Center, University of California, and revised in April 2014 by Shannon Hoyle, AGMRC, Iowa State University, the average garlic consumption per capita per year in the U.S. is two pounds. The report states that the steady increase in demand for garlic is attributed to an increased affinity for its flavor and the promotion of its health benefits.

In 2013 the majority of fresh and processed garlic production was concentrated in California, which harvested 23,000 acres. The value of U.S. garlic production that year was $232 million, an increase from the previous year.

The AGMRC report notes that prices have varied over time, from a low of $24.49 per hundredweight in 2004 to a record high of $71 per hundredweight in 2010. The average price was $60 per hundredweight with an average yield per acre of 162 hundredweight in 2013.

Globally, China remains the largest garlic-producing nation representing two-thirds of the world’s total production. Following behind are India and South Korea. The Unityed States ranks eighth in total global garlic production.

In 2010, the United States exported 18.6 million pounds of fresh garlic valued at $16.4 million, primarily to Canada and Mexico.

The United States is the world’s largest import market for fresh garlic, becoming a net importer of 164.4 million pounds in 2010. China accounted for the majority of total U.S. garlic imports. Other top suppliers of garlic to the United States were Argentina and Mexico.

Social responsibility plays big part in Camposol’s operations

NUEVO CHAO, Peru — Camposol, a leading Peruvian agribusiness headquartered in Lima, Peru, is looking to capitalize on the increased access of the U.S. market for Peruvian avocados.

The company, owned by the Dyer family, is investing heavily in its avocado operations near Trujillo, a coastal region north of Lima, and is seeing promising results.

“It was a risky proposition when we first started with avocados,” said Allan Cooper, managing director of Camposol’s avocado business unit. “First of all, this is a desert region, which is not normally the environment for avocados. Usually they are grown at a higher altitude and in areas where there is much rain.”

Cooper said as a result of much trial and error, Camposol now has thriving production of avocados on approximately 2,540 hectares (or about 6,000 acres).

“We took things we learned over the years and put them into practice and improved upon them,” said Cooper. “We experimented with root stock, nutrition plans and watering strategies. Essentially, we wrote our own book.”

Cooper said Camposol expects good volumes of fruit in the size 40 to 60 range, with a preponderance of size 48, a popular size for the U.S. retail market.

Key to the success of avocado production in this region is the successful implementation of a regional water project known as Chavimochic, which taps fresh, pure water from rivers emanating from the Andes Mountains for use in agriculture. The project is now in its third stage and benefits primarily three crops: avocados, asparagus and blueberries.

Among other changes at Camposol this season is the fact that avocados are now being harvested in bins in the field. The bins, which hold about 400 kilograms (900 pounds) of fruit, enable workers to harvest more quickly and efficiently, with trucks picking up filled bins frequently for transport to the packinghouse.

Camposol also has its own nursery, which it uses to propagate its stock.

“It’s really the only way to ensure the quality and traceability of our products,” said Cooper. “Everything we produce is fully traceable from the crew in the field all the way to the retail shelf.”

Cooper said Camposol focuses on just-in-time delivery, so avocados spend no more than three days in cold storage before they are shipped. And to help expedite shipping, the company has its own SENASA inspection office at its packing plant to provide in-house federal sanitary inspection.

Camposol, which claims to be the third-largest employer in Peru, with 13,000 workers during peak seasons, is also a major proponent of social responsibility for its employees.

As part of those efforts, the company maintains a day-care facility and medical clinic in the village of Nuevo Chao, which, along with the adjacent village of Chao, is home to many of the company’s employees.

The day-care facility provides child care free of cost to employees of Camposol, and approximately 40 to 60 children are in attendance each day.

Cooper said the medical clinic started in 2007 and is an alliance between Camposol and the regional government. It treats approximately 60 people per day, with a large number of patients being children and pregnant women.

But perhaps the most ambitious social responsibility project for Camposol is its Mar verde housing development.

Marverde is a planned city that will offer a housing option for Camposol employees and is being built in seven phases over seven years.

Housing units are available in various sizes, from modest single-level dwellings suitable for a small family to a bi-level house designed for larger families to much larger, more luxurious structures for executive-level employees. The community will offer residents services such as law enforcement, schools, banks, commerce and recreational facilities.

There are 698 houses are planned for the first phase, and 200 have already been sold. Prices for homes in phase 1 range from $10,000 to $33,000, depending on the size of the house and size of the lot.

And with assistance in the form of low-interest loans, residents are receiving the ability to build equity and live in a development with quality housing.

Commenting on the Camposol’s social responsibility initiatives, Cooper said, “We can’t give the market a quality product if we don’t provide a quality environment for our employees.”

Avocados leading the way at Camposol

LIMA, Peru — Camposol currently sits in a leadership position when it comes to avocados, and the company is looking to keep it that way.

Samuel Dyer, president of Camposol, based here, said that while the company has branched into different disciplines of agriculture, avocados remain its most important commodity, accounting for about 20 percent of its overall revenue in 2015.

“Camposol started with avocados in Trujillo in 2000 with 800 hectares,” said Dyer. “The company changed ownership in 2007, and since that time we have tripled the number of avocado hectares. And most of the newer plantings have reached full maturity.”

Dyer continued, “When we increased the avocado acreage [after acquiring the company], we were betting on the U.S. market to open to Peruvian fruit. We knew there was a high probability that would happen, which prompted us to do that.”

Additionally, when the Dyer family first acquired Camposol, Mission Produce owner Steve Barnard was a shareholder in the company and a strong supporter of growth, which was a reason for investing in additional acreage. Mission is no longer involved with Camposol operations, said Dyer, but they still maintain a friendly relationship.

Dyer said Camposol has been very active in the last few years in trying to be closer to its retail partners, and to that end it opened an office in Europe five years ago and one in the United States two years ago.

“Our main strategy is to go direct to retailers,” he said. “We want to differentiate ourselves from other producers, and we want to develop ‘Camposol’ into a consumer brand. We are also planning to sticker a portion of our fruit, at least one-third initially, with the ‘Camposol’ label.”

Dyer said that part of the strategy to stand out with consumers is to concentrate on providing the best quality fruit, and to promote the company’s social responsibility initiatives, which include a day care center, medical clinic and housing development for its employees.

“These social responsibility initiatives will help make a name for the ‘Camposol’ brand in the United States,” he said. “We plan to be more open with our efforts and communicate better what we are doing.”

Vertical integration

Dyer said Camposol strives to be a vertically integrated company as a way to minimize risk and control its own destiny.

“As a big player, we don’t want to depend on third parties more than we need to,” he said. “It also allows us to keep up with the trends of consumers. We will still use distributors because we have longtime relationships that we want to maintain, but up to 40 percent of our fruit would be shipped direct.”

Dyer said an important part of Camposol’s strategy is to grow more, “not necessarily in the same window but to expand to different windows to have early production and later production. We will possibly look to other countries, like Mexico, Chile and South Africa, to have year-round production.

“We think Asia will become a very important export region,” said Dyer. “China just opened for shipments and we hope to receive approval from Japan soon.”

Dyer said it is very important for Camposol that Peru becomes a major player in the world of agriculture.

“We have strong support of the government and we’re lucky to have the best climactic conditions and an abundant water supply,” he said. “We have some of the best yields of any producing country. Peru will make a big difference in global agriculture.”

Agrokasa relies on intelligent management to maximize production

BARRANCA, Peru — Agrokasa, a multi-faceted agricultural producer, has taken avocado growing to a new level of sophistication.

Its avocado orchard is ideally situated here, in a coastal region approximately 125 miles north of Lima.

“We have 3,000 acres of avocados, and the entire ranch is about 9,000 acres, so we really have no neighbors,” said Jose Chlimper, president of Agrokasa and a former minister of agriculture for Peru. “Also, it is a very hilly region, which minimizes wind that can be bad for avocados.”

Agrokasa’s Las Mercedes ranch is in an extremely arid region that receives just two to four millimeters of rain per year. Normally, this would be bad news for growing avocados, however the ranch’s location near a river emanating from the Andes Mountains gives it access to an abundant supply of water.

But Chlimper is still mindful of preserving that precious natural resource. To best do that, the company has a system in place to filter the water in open reservoirs before pumping it up to 10 covered reservoirs that each hold 130,000 cubic feet of water and sit several hundred feet above the avocado orchards. And being at elevation means gravity can be put to use to irrigate the trees without the need for further pumping.

Additionally, trees and fruit are outfitted with a sensor to measure contraction around their trunks. When the trunk contracts, it is an indication that the tree is thirsty and the irrigation system is triggered. When the trunk expands, the tree has had its fill and the irrigation system shuts down.

“It is not unlike people,” said Chlimper. “When you are thirsty, you drink and when you are not, you don’t. We let the trees tell us when they are thirsty so we only water them when they need it.”

In the orchards, Agrokasa workers meticulously care for the trees and fruit. Avocados exposed to direct sun are covered with avocado leaves to protect against sunburn. The leaves eventually fall to the ground and become part of the natural compost that nourishes the soil. It is a natural, inexpensive and efficient way to increase yields.

As another way to protect its water supply, Agrokasa breeds owls as a way of controlling the rodent population.

“Mice have a tendency to chew through the irrigation lines in search of water,” said Chlimper. “The owls help control the mice population so we can save water and the time and labor to fix the lines.”

Also, in keeping with the theme of self-sufficiency at Agrokasa, the company maintains 400 beehives and brings in more during the season to properly pollinate the trees.

The flowering season is late September to late November, and since Agrokasa has its own bees, it can better control the pollination period.

“We have enough bees in late September so we have fruit more evenly throughout the season,” said Chlimper. “We don’t get the big peaks throughout the season, which are not good for the market, the plants or the consumers. Intelligent management makes longer, smoother harvest and a predictable supply of fruit.”

When harvesting the fruit, workers carefully load it into field bins, using a special padding to minimize bruising.

For 2015, Chlimper predicts that total Hass avocado harvest from his Las Mercedes ranch would be about 21,000 metric tons, half of which is destined to the U.S. market. In three years, that volume could rise to 35,000 metric tons with all plants reaching maturity.

Agrokasa was also undergoing an expansion of its packinghouse early this season, which would double the number of avocado packinglines to four and increase the number of forced-air cooling tunnels to eight from four. The increased capacity will enable Agrokasa to handle 400 tons of fruit per day at peak season, according to Chlimper.