TRENTON, Fla. — Billy Smith’s Watermelons Inc. has upgraded its watermelon packing line.

Ahead of the season, which started in May, the grower-shipper, installed an automated belt system manufactured by Agri Machinery Inc., Orlando.

North Florida watermelon grower upgrades packing line
Doug Ohlemeier

Billy Smith’s Watermelons Inc., Trenton, Fla., is using a new sizing and sorting system in its watermelon packing line this season.
Billy Smith’s Watermelons installed the automated belt system manufactured by Agri Machinery Inc., Orlando, Fla., this spring.

The system, which cost $250,000, offers improved speed in sorting, promotes size uniformity by sizing melons by weight, and cleans them as melons run through a series of dry brush washers.

Rantz Smith, owner of Smith Farms, Billy Smith’s Watermelons’ family growing operation, said so far, only three other watermelon packers have installed such units.

He said the company invested in the machinery to keep up with technology and food safety concerns.

Billy Smith’s Watermelons ships a variety of melon counts to retail customers such as Costco Wholesale Corp., Issaquah, Wash., Sam’s Club, Bentonville, Ark., Kroger Co., Cincinnati, and Stop & Shop Cos. Inc., Quincy, Mass.