Domex Superfresh Growers expects a significant surge in volume as new acreage develops during the next few years, and the Yakima, Wash., company is taking steps to ensure its packing and storage facilities can handle it.
“We have seen a lot of infrastructure projects come into play during the past year: three major upgrades and two completely new packaging facilities will work together to increase our capacity by more than 33%,” said Loren Queen, marketing and communications manager.
“These improvements and increases have been made in anticipation of current and future supply and demand. As more of our recent and current plantings come into production, we will need every bit of this line and storage capacity and more.”
Domex is in the process of replacing its existing packing facility at its Yakima headquarters. A facility built in the 1960s will be replaced this fall with a 66,000-square-foot pack house that will double the size and triple the capacity of its predecessor.
The facility will be home to a new line with automatic tray fillers and automatic bagging equipment. The line also has sorting capabilities that automatically separate product destined for the fresh market as whole fruit and apples headed to juice or fresh-cut processing.
All of it adds up to more efficient use of labor.
“We can do more with the labor we have,” Queen said. “We actually will need additional labor to cover what we need to do.”
The packing line at the headquarters has been shut down just two Saturdays in the past year. It typically runs eight- to 12-hour shifts, six or seven days a week.
“The packing line has been running at capacity,” Queen said. “We’re looking to run eight-hour shifts five days a week.”
Queen said the line, which will be dedicated to apples, should be running in October. The old packing facility will be renovated and will be used for office space, likely early next year.
With the new packing facility expected to triple capacity, Domex also is building additional cold storage and controlled atmosphere storage at another Yakima location. That project should be complete in October.
Meanwhile, the company is building a 40,000-square-foot packing and storage facility in Quincy, Wash., where Domex has acreage coming into production. That facility, which includes controlled atmosphere storage, also will be dedicated to apples and should be done in September or October.
Domex began preparing for increased volumes in advance, completing two projects last fall and another earlier this year.
The company installed a new packing line in its Tieton, Wash., facility last fall, doubling its capacity to pack apples.
Queen said that facility had been running two shifts seven days a week but reduced that to one shifts five or six days a week.
Domex also upgraded and modified its building and line in Selah, Wash., doubling capacity.
“We’re always planting new acreage,” Queen said. “We plant or replant 1,000 acres a year. It’s efficient, high-density plantings. All that capacity will be needed to meet supply.”