Stemilt Growers had a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new, state-of-the-art cherry packingline at the company’s Euclid Street facility in Wenatchee, WA. Stemilt President West Mathison and owner-grower Kyle Mathison led a dedication and blessing of the line as part of its inaugural run.
“We’ve been tracking this electronic sizing and defect sorting technology for over five years and feel that it’s finally ready to be implemented on a commercial level," said West Mathison. "It’s an exciting day and exciting addition at Stemilt. We believe that the technology on this line will help us improve returns to the land through better sizing and sorting of cherries, while simultaneously reducing sorting costs.It will benefit our growers, customers, and the end consumer through the delivery of World Famous Cherries.”
The Euclid cherry line is the first of its kind in Washington state and features new technology for electronically sizing and sorting cherries. Two, 10-lane electronic sizers with defect sorters from GP Graders will reduce the company’s reliance on manual sorting of cherries by efficiently sizing cherries and sorting each piece of fruit automatically. This allows Stemilt to move away from the traditional method of using a diverging roll sizer to size cherries and the human eye to sort fruit.
According to Stemilt Vice President of Operations Jay Fulbright, the Euclid red cherry line has the capacity to handle 12-13 tons per hour. Though the company’s Olds Station line has a higher capacity (at 18 tons per hour), the Euclid line creates better sizing separations for cherries and will mechanically sort cherries for colors, firmness, and defects. Stemilt will be able to size cherries in half rows (I.e. 9.5, 10, 10.5) rather than full row (I.e. 9, 10). The line is also designed to be gentler with the fruit thanks to reduced drops and drop heights throughout the line.
“The Euclid line will enable us to efficiently and consistently pack a high-quality box of cherries. It delivers on accurate sizing and equips us with the ability to pack cherries according to set parameters, such as firmness or removal of certain defects. The technology allows us to be more of everything to every box,” said Fulbright.
Stemilt will use the new line to pack dark-sweet cherries for both domestic and export.
In addition to the GP Graders equipment, two Sorma machines offer flexibility in packaging cherries in a variety of pack types, including clamshells, bags and bulk. Stemilt will deploy experimental air drying of the cherries prior to packaging to determine if it is a method that improves the overall quality and freshness of the pack. The Euclid line is also equipped with an eliminator sizer, called Herbie, which cleans up small-sized cherries and sends them to designated sorting tables for manual sorting and then onto packing.
The addition of the Euclid cherry line gives Stemilt five cherry packing lines in Washington. The company has a high-capacity red cherry packingline at its Olds Station facility, two lines at its Miller Street facility and a line at its Stemilt Hill facility. The Euclid line increases Stemilt’s cherry packing capacity, which will be important in the future. It also enables the company to dedicate packing lines for specific varieties, such as organic dark-sweet cherries.
The line is primarily made up of GP Graders equipment, with a dump tank and elevator provided by Van Doren Sales, conveyors by R.H. Brown and Van Doren Sales, and peripheral equipment by Stemilt. Approximately 105 employees will work on the line, which is housed in a 24,000-square-foot building.
Stemilt had a turnout of 225 people at the cherry line dedication and blessing of the line, which included growers, customers, employees and those that contributed to the line’s construction. Kyle Mathison praised the technology and excitement the Euclid line brings to Stemilt during a brief address.
“Every day I wake up with a goal of growing world-famous cherries for people to enjoy. It’s not a destination, it’s a journey and this new cherry line is equipped with the technology that will support us in that journey for years to come,” he said.