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Prime Time adds new greenhouse production

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Mike Aiton

Coachella, CA-based Prime Time International has developed a new property near its desert headquarters that should give it a bit more volume this winter and extend the growing season from that region.

Director of Marketing Mike Aiton said it is not really a greenhouse operation, and calling it a shadehouse also is not quite accurate. “We have developed a whole new property that allows us to plant indoors. It’s a greenhouse hybrid,” he said.

During the winter vegetable season, Prime Time sources from several locations, including Mexico. Its Coachella Valley deal, which is quite prolific in the spring and early summer, is a smaller deal in the fall and winter, but this new addition will double the company’s pepper volume from the area. Prime Time specializes in peppers, and Mr. Aiton said that the greenhouse production will include red, yellow and orange peppers that will be the blocky type similar to other hothouse peppers.

He added that the move indoors helps increase yields and extends the growing season by mitigating the cold weather that will naturally occur during the winter months. “Obviously there is a cost increase, but when you look at the longer growing season, it works out,” he said.

While the increase in greenhouses or shadehouses in the Mexican winter deal have been commonplace over the past decade, Mr. Aiton said that has not been the case in California’s Coachella Valley. “I don’t think this can be considered a trend in Coachella. This is the first new construction of this type in many years,” he said.

The Prime Time executive said that the increased pepper volume should allow the company to offer the increasingly popular multi-color pepper packs in larger numbers. He said that consumers have shown a great interest in buying peppers in multicolor packs both as mini sweet pepper packs, which typically include several different colors and many different peppers in one bag, as well as the larger Bell pepper packs, which typically include three peppers of different colors merchandised in a clamshell or tray wrap.

In general, Mr. Aiton is anticipating a fairly good winter vegetable season. While he has not noted a robust turnaround in the economy, he said that many factors indicate that it has bottomed out and is starting to gain momentum. “Nothing to get too excited about, but at least we are headed in the right direction,” he said.