First Fruits plans solar water heating system

First Fruits Marketing of Washington, the marketing arm of Yakima, Wash.-based grower-shippers Broetje Orchards and Congdon Orchards, is taking a step ahead in sustainability, said Jim Hazen, business manager for Broetje Orchards.

Broetje has plans in the spring to begin construction on a solar-powered hot water system in its packing facility, Hazen said.

“Probably, by next harvest, it will be up and running,” he said.


Mastronardi expands, earns certification

Kingsville, Ontario-based Mastronardi Produce Ltd.’s greenhouse facility in Coldwater, Mich., is in the midst of its second phase of expansion, said Daniela Ferro, Mastronardi spokeswoman.

When the project is completed, Coldwater will become a Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program-verified farm, Ferro said.

Mastronardi’s headquarters in Kingsville also is expanding to create a new warehouse space, Ferro said.


Ocean Mist assesses pest management

Castroville, Calif.-based Ocean Mist Farms is working with Soquel, Calif.-based sustainability consulting firm SureHarvest to obtain independent assessment of specific areas within Ocean Mist’s sustainability program, said Afreen Malik, Ocean Mist’s director of technical services.

The main focus is on Integrated Pest Management, Malik said.

“Our plan is to learn from this exercise, share results with our employees and customers, make necessary improvements defined within a clear timeline, and expand this approach to other areas of the sustainability program,” Malik said.


Organics Unlimited drills wells for bananas

Recent sustainability efforts at San Diego-based Organics Unlimited include drilling wells on the company’s farms to provide clean water to its banana plants to reduce standing water and complications it can create, said president Mayra Velazquez de Leon.

“This also provides a more consistent supply of water throughout the year without being as reliant on seasonal rains,” she said.


PalletWrapz broadens customer base

Chicago-based PalletWrapz Inc., which specializes in manufacturing reusable stretch wraps for produce and other product shipping applications, is growing its client base to include larger-scale customers than before, said Matt Jacobs, president and owner-partner.


Rio Farms focuses on water resources

King City, Calif.-based Rio Farms LLC, a growing arm of Oxnard, Calif.-based Gills Onions, is expanding its capability to track water resources, said Nikki Rodoni, sustainability director for Gills Onions/Rio Farms.

“It all focuses on water right now and understanding our water usage,” she said.

The company is investing in new tools, such as inline water meters and soil moisture sensors as a way to measure water use, Rodoni said.


Stemilt Growers seeks to reduce crop loss

Stemilt Growers LLC, Wenatchee, Wash., is investigating the concept of covered orchards, said Roger Pepperl marketing director for the conventional and organic apple, pear and cherry grower-shipper.

It’s all about reducing crop losses, Pepperl said.

“We’re looking at some covered crops, some retractable roofs,” he said.

The company also is trying shade cloths on apples and to protect against hail, he said.

The company will test the idea on one or two acres, Pepperl said.


SureHarvest report reviews almond board

Soquel, Calif.-based sustainability consulting firm SureHarvest completed its first sustainability program report for the Modesto-based Almond Board of California, said Joe Rowde, senior research associate SureHarvest.

“On the whole, there’s very good things happening across the board, especially relevant to irrigation, nutrient management and pest management,” Rowde said.


United Fresh promotes sustainability guide

The Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association is inviting members to use its free Sustainability Guide and Self-Assessment tool to increase understanding of sustainability principles and learn how to enhance them in their operations, said Ray Gilmer, United’s vice president of issues management and communication.

Grower-shippers are also invited to participate in a pilot group for the sustainability guide, which also is designed to help members share practices and processes they may already incorporate into their operations.