COACHELLA, Calif. — Prime Time International has implemented some innovative changes this season that should benefit both the company and its customers, said Mike Aiton, director of marketing.
The firm has installed solar panels on the roof of its Mecca, Calif., packinghouse, upgraded its Coachella watermelon-packing facility and built a second mesh-enclosed structure where bell peppers are grown.
Prime Time International spent more than $1 million to install 3,000 solar panels on the roof of its 70,000-square-foot warehouse in Mecca, Aiton said.
The company already is saving money on electricity as it conducts a more eco-friendly operation, he said.
The facility packs bell peppers five months each year and generates the majority of its own electricity during that time, he said.
The California desert, with its surplus of sunshine, is an ideal location for capturing solar energy, Aiton said. The system went online last summer.
Prime Time also installed a fully automated packing system in its Coachella watermelon facility.
Melons are washed, brushed and sent through a reader that weeds out product showing symptoms of hollow heart and over-mature fruit.
The system also attaches a unique sticker to each melon that allows it to be traced back to the field and block where it was grown and harvested and even to the worker who picked it.
“It’s a fairly sophisticated system that we’re now using on our watermelons,” Aiton said.
Finally, the company has opened a 32-acre, mesh-enclosed structure in Oasis, Calif., just south of Coachella, that grows red, yellow and orange blocky bell peppers.
The firm also has a second, 40-acre structure in Mecca.
The program was initiated in response to customer requests for greenhouse product.
Prime Time International also offers field-grown green beans, eggplant, sweet corn, watermelons, green bell peppers and elongated, field-grown red and yellow bell peppers.
The company has increased its acreage on almost all of its products this season.
“We’ve been very aggressive on planting,” Aiton said.
Aiton is optimistic about the coming season, and he said Prime Time plans to work with retailers on promotions to move its large, high-quality crop.