To help improve its shipping capabilities, L&M Cos. Inc. has upgraded its north Florida potato packing operation.

The Raleigh, N.C.-based grower-shipper has doubled packing capacity and increased its refrigerated storage and loading and unloading space.

L&M improves Florida potato packing plantThe improvements should allow L&M to provide customers faster truck turns, said Tracy Fowler, general manager of potatoes and onions.

“With the new cooler space, we can load the front and back side,” he said. “We are able to cool and rotate more potatoes a day. Last year, we did 12 loads a day. This year, because of having more cooler space, we can rotate and load 30 trucks a day which is very helpful during the hot Florida season.”

Fowler said the changes should provide longer shelf life.

L&M installed an Odenberg automatic optical sorting machine and a high capacity line for more precise grading. The new machinery considers all drops and bounces and allows for additional packing options, Fowler said. The installation of a second Volm repacking machine provides for packing more 3-, 5-, and 10-pound bags, he said.

L&M also increased its acreage from 650 acres to 890 acres.

North Florida’s potato deal normally runs from early May through June 20.

L&M’s addition of russet potatoes, which have a longer growing season than its reds, whites and yellows, should have L&M packing russets through late June, Fowler said.