On Jan. 23, Jim DiMenna, president of JemD Farms, headquartered in Kingsville, ON, told The Produce News that things were going according to plan and every detail was in good order in the development and construction of the company’s new Dublin, VA, [Pulaski County], greenhouse facility.
The company celebrated its groundbreaking on July 1, 2013.
“We’re coming up in Virginia,” said DiMenna. “It’s an exciting time to see the greenhouse and the adjacent distribution center really taking form now. We are right on target to start shipping in September from our Phase 1 project.”
The company is also enthusiastic about this facility being its introduction into certified organic high-tech greenhouse produce.
“Our organic line will include tomato items such as tomatoes-on-the-vine and grape tomatoes,” DiMenna added. “There’s a lot of research and consideration going into exactly what tomato varieties we’ll be growing organically in Virginia, but you can bet that whatever decisions we make they’ll be the best available.”
The first of three phases in the Virginia project is comprised of 20 acres of greenhouse and approximately 70,000 square feet of service building and distribution facility.
Phase 2, will be an additional 17 acres of greenhouse growing space and is scheduled for completion in 2015. Phase 3 adds an additional 18 acres, and is due to be operational in 2016.
DiMenna said that retail and foodservice client responses to the new organic line are what will determine the amount of acreage that is allocated to organics in the last two phases.
“If the demand is at the level that we anticipate, it’s a sure bet that ultimately the entire acreage will be dedicated to organic production,” he said. “The greenhouses will be separated by walls that prevent any part of the conventional production from coming into contact with the organic production. We expect to have the highest possible level of organic certification, along with the latest and most-effective food-safety and traceability certifications.”
Vegetables produced at the new Virginia facility will be marketed under JemD Farms’ “Red Sun Farms” label. The facility will service the entire East Coast, from Florida to Maine.
In the meantime, the company isn’t holding back on the development of new items to add to its lineup of outstanding greenhouse offerings. Its new modified-atmosphere packaging, commonly referred to as MAP, bag is a pack option that the company is very excited about.
“It’s a 10-ounce ‘grab and go’ bag that’s re-sealable,” said DiMenna. “The MAP technology extends the shelf life and flavor of tomatoes. Studies have indicated a direct correlation between flavor and moisture loss.”
MAP packaging, he added, slows moisture loss thus prolonging the flavor attributes of the produce.
“The bag’s handle is consumer-convenient, the attractive graphics showcase the tomatoes and the bag differentiates our greenhouse grape tomatoes from other field grape offerings,” DiMenna pointed out. “We set out to find a pack option that stands apart from the typical pint clamshell, and we feel we’ve accomplished that with the help of our supply partner.”
JemD Farms is also conducting extensive tests with top seal technology from Europe. DiMenna explained that the benefits of top seal packaging are well documented and that the company’s North American retail partners have expressed enthusiasm over the item. Rather than the more-costly clamshell lid, the product will be overwrapped with the sealant. This option will help to reduce packaging costs and benefit the company’s sustainability initiatives, which it takes very seriously.
“There will be several top seal pack offerings from ‘Red Sun Farms’ in 2014,” said DiMenna. “We see this seal as being the industry standard within the next five or so years.”