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Domex Superfresh Growers' orchard tech

domexvidDomex Superfresh Growers continues to innovate with use of GPS-equipped tractors as technology moves from the drawing board to the orchard. Use of GPS allows the tractor to create a planting line within an inch of accuracy. A specialized plant platform pulled behind the tractor opens the ground so trees can be planted within the trench created. Holes are then closed up using small blades and rolling drums.

Produce Alliance leads fundraising campaign for children’s hospital

chinewProduce Alliance LLC, one of the larger produce management services companies in the United States, leverages its national distribution and grower-shipper network to lead an annual philanthropic campaign benefitting one of Chicago’s premiere Children’s Hospitals.

Jan. 26, 2014 marked the 17th annual “Aon Step Up for Kids challenge” at the Aon Center, one of Chicago’s tallest buildings. Participants climbed 80 flights of stairs to raise money for children and families at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. This year, the event had over 3,000 climbers and raised over $700,000. Produce Alliance lead all teams with over $35,000.

The Produce Alliance/Ruby Robinson team consisted of 45 employees and their families, with additional sponsorships coming from distributors and suppliers across the country.

Fundraising proceeds will be directed to K.I.D.S.S. for Kids, an affiliated organization of Lurie Children’s Hospital.

“In year one, we had 125 people climb. Today we have over 3,000. We are extremely proud of everyone involved and want this to be a $1 million event for the hospital,” said Robert Feldgreber, chief financial officer and general counsel for Produce Alliance/Ruby Robinson, as well as a founder of K.I.D.S.S. for Kids.

CMI's high-quality KIKU apples

kiku imageFrom picking at the peak of ripeness, to polishing and preserving freshness, to packing, there are a lot of steps involved in making sure that "KIKU" brand apples are high in quality and exceptionally sweet.

Columbia Marketing International provided this new behind-the-scenes video of the journey that apples go on from tree to table. Sit back and enjoy a tour inside one of CMI's apple-packing warehouse.

Learn more about "KIKU" brand apples at www.sweetkiku.com.

Local sponsorship fuels national health and fitness messaging for California Giant

bballCalifornia Giant Berry Farms has teamed up with the local D-League Basketball Team for the Golden State Warriors this season and launched a kids club to promote health and fitness to fans.

The partnership with the Santa Cruz Warriors D-League team resulted in significant recruitment in less than a month before it was even publicized, and California Giant berries were quickly named the official fruit of the SC Warriors.

This health- and fitness-based sponsorship program along with a local junior chefs program being launched this summer serves as the foundation for a national messaging program focused on helping kids enjoy a health and fitness based lifestyle.

"Making exercise and eating healthy fun for kids is the key to really building healthy habits on a long-term basis," Cindy Jewell, director of marketing for Watsonville, CA-based California Giant, said in a press release. "We are using our own community to develop pilot programs for kids that we can ultimately launch across the country."

New pages are being developed on the website, as well as social media connections and national contests.

Each month during basketball season, players spend court time with local kids aged 5-12 teaching basketball skills, but more importantly mentoring the young fans on how to enjoy exercise and the importance of being active. They all sit down at the end of each skills clinic and enjoy California Giant berries as a replenishing snack.

"Moms have approached me each time to thank us for being part of a positive influence in the community and for providing kids their favorite berry snacks as a reward for the workout on the court," Jewell added in the press release.

The company created a video using footage from kids clinics, which is shown on the big screen at the arena before each home game to encourage membership in the kids club:  

Once basketball season is over, California Giant will continue to work with the Warriors staff to keep kids engaged during the summer with clinics and games on the court, trips to California Giant berry fields, and other activities to keep the California Giant brand top of mind with kids and their families as well as keeping them active.

Each of the local activities developed promoting kids' health and fitness will be the foundation for refining and developing a national messaging campaign to continue to build brand trust and loyalty for "California Giant" brand berries.

E. Armata completes renovation of Hunts Point facility

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E. Armata, a fourth-generation family-run fruit and vegetable wholesaler located in the Hunts Point terminal market in the Bronx, NY, has been in business for over 100 years. Today, it is a tenant of major significance on the market and for its retail, wholesale and foodservice customers throughout the tri-state region.

Chris Armata, president of the company, told The Produce News that the major renovation project the firm started last April was completed in November.image005E. Armata family members Michael Armata, sales representative, Chris Armata, president, Chelsea Armata, human resource manager, Paul Armata, vice president, and Nicholas Armata, sales representative.

"This was a major gutting and rebuilding from the ground up," said Armata. "And we started this project months before it was announced that Hunts Point had negotiated a seven-year lease extension with the city of New York. We undertook this project because we feel strongly that we need to supply our growers, shippers and customers with a facility that matches the quality of our produce and our service."

E. Armata has 21 units in rows A and C on the market, and a separate building adjacent to the market that is used for warehousing and tomato repacking. Its warehouse and refrigeration space alone accounts for over 60,000-square-feet.

Two years ago, E. Armata purchased the adjacent Albee Tomato Co. units 118, 119 and 120 on row A, increasing the company's unbroken chain from unit 111 to 120 on the row. E. Armata's four units on row C were renovated seven years ago.

"Like our previous units, the units on row A were very old, and so we decided to gut them completely and build a brand new facility from the ground up," said Armata. "We installed the most organized, efficient, temperature-controlled and spotless environment. The warehouses are sparkling clean and we feature a cold chain-compliant design to keep produce at the proper temperature."

He explained that the rear of the store has insulated and sealed doors, so when product is received it goes directly into the refrigerated facility.

The new warehouse features location markers and numbered doors and aisles to maintain total efficiency for its shippers and employees so that customers are serviced quickly and efficiently.

The multiple warehouses now feature state-of-the-art refrigeration and real-time inventory control.

"Our tomato repacking facility is impressive," Armata added. "It allows customers to pick the color and size of the specific tomato they desire. We are pleased and eager to present our expanded facilities to our customers as testament to our continued standard of excellence."

The company's new technology features traceability, truck routing and prompt delivery to ensure that produce is delivered fresh and in a timely manner from start to finish.

"We are also able to give our customers emailed bills as well as receive bills through our speedy accounting team," Armata noted.

Family owned and operated, E. Armata Inc. works directly with grower-shippers, and sells to smaller grocers, institutional and restaurant suppliers, wholesalers and larger retailers.

The Armata family is long established in the produce industry. It began in the late 1890s when Erasmo Armata operated at the fruit auction in lower Manhattan, eventually expanding it to the Washington Street Market. The company was among the early produce firms to move into the Hunts Point market when it opened in 1967.

In addition to Chris Armata, family members now working in the business include his brother, Paul Armata, vice president; Chris Armata's sons, Nicholas and Michael Armata, both sales representatives; and his daughter, Chelsea Armata, who handles human resources.

In the midst of this major renovation and rebuild project, E. Armata also paid special attention to bringing its website, www.earmata.com, up to date. The newly designed sight is easy to maneuver, and it provides a direct link to the company's YouTube video at http://youtu.be/xFP9uxTzwd8, which can also be linked to directly through the company's website.

The video features comments from the Armata family as well as some key staff members, and the enthusiasm shows through. But Armata said the enthusiasm is being expressed even by its customers when they see the newly built facility.

"Our customers' and other business associates' jaws drop when they see this newly renovated and rebuilt facility," said Armata. "It really speaks to who we are and how we feel about what we do. We handle the best fresh produce available in the world, and our facility reflects how precious it must be handled for the sake of growers, distributors, customers and end-users alike.

"In addition to our family staff members, we have an outstanding team who deserve a tremendous amount of credit for our success in the past and looking forward into our future," he added.