Al Harrison Co. Distributors in Nogales, AZ, which specializes in watermelons and hard shell squash, will be adding a new production area for winter watermelons in Mexico this season.
Beginning around December 10, the company will begin harvesting watermelons in the state of Nayarit in southern Mexico, according to President Brent Harrison. That should provide a steady supply of product for the company’s watermelon program through mid or late February.
“We picked up some new acreage down there,” Mr. Harrison said. “We will be packing the majority of our product at a facility in Nogales, Sonora,” which is on the Mexican border just across the line from Nogales, AZ. “We will be using a service called AgriPro,” which just opened last year. The facility utilizes sorting machinery with “new technology” that will test the melons for size, shape and quality defects “to give us a better product.”
Harrison’s winter programs “will be strong in both watermelons and hard shells quash,” Mr. Harrison told The Produce News. “Our hard shell squash program starts in December and runs through May. It consists of Acorn, Spaghetti, Butternut, Banana and Kabocha squash.”
The company’s volume will be up about 15 percent in its hard shell squash program, he said. “That is due to some new growers on board I believe that these growers had a great year last year. they all wanted to plant a little bit more” for the 2012-13 harvest. Those will be coming out of the Guasave and Los Mochis areas of the state of Sinaloa and from Ciudad Obregon in the state of Sonora.
For the last several years, Harrison has diversified its product lines somewhat from its traditional core items. But “our focus this year will be mainly watermelons and hard shell squash,” Mr. Harrison said. “We may have access to some cucumbers and zucchini or summer squash, but our focus this y ear is on … products that we do best for our growers and in volume.”
In a related development, “we have made some organizational changes,” he said. “We have had some people leave here” who had been handling the diversified line. The personnel changes are “all geared to focusing on the watermelon and hard shell programs.”
Currently handling sales at the company are Mr. Harrison and Scott Kosnik.
“We have a new procurement director on board,” Jose Gomez, who was previously with Neuman Seeds, he said.
The company is placing a great deal of emphasis on its traceability program and on food safety certifications, Mr. Harrison said. In its traceability program, “currently, we have case level as well as item level traceability options for watermelons and hard shell. We know that is very important. Also, we are upgrading our facility here in Nogales to the Global Food Safety Initiative.” In addition to having food-safety certification at the field level, “the Al Harrison warehouse will have the GFSI certification in place” for the coming season.
“We feel that we need to be ahead of the game and be proactive in those areas,” he said. “We know it is coming down the pike.” He wants to be at the head of the pack in those areas, and have the programs already in place before they are a requirement.