WENATCHEE, Wash. — Stemilt Growers LLC is doubling up on optical sorting lines for its Euclid cherry packing operation.
Brianna Shales, communications manager, said the second line will be in the same building as the one installed last year.
Besides the improvements in cherry packing technology in Washington, Stemilt also installed a 40-lane machine in its Stockton, Calif., packinghouse.
For the Euclid facility, the new cherry line will be a Unitech optical sorter, like the Stockton facility’s new installation. Last year, Stemilt installed a GP Graders optical sorter at the Euclid facility.
Nick Watkins, production manager for Stemilt, said the biggest advantages that came with the optical cherry sorters is better consistency, particularly in sizing the fruit correctly.
“We will have a more consistent pack, more consistent color, and overall we will be able to reduce our (manual) sorters and improve our costs,” he said.
Stemilt’s Euclid cherry packing facility in Wenatchee will have a 20-lane GP Grader sizer for one line and a 20-lane Unitech sizer for the other cherry line.
Each should be able to pack about 12 tons to 14 tons per hour, translating to 24 tons per hour capacity at the plant, Watkins said.
If crop conditions remain strong through the growing season, Shales said Stemilt could market about 2.5 million boxes of cherries in 2014 from the Northwest.
Shales said Stemilt has a small percentage of its crop in organic production, with a bigger share in dark sweets and smaller volume of organic rainiers.
“There is definitely a market for it. The organic market palace is really hot right now,” she said.
Stemilt expects to have big volume of high quality skeenas this year in late July and August.
“That’s an emerging variety that grows large in size, has firmness and dark color, and so we’re really excited about that,” she said.
Shales said Stemilt is offering its Kyle’s Pick pouch bag this year. The special pack is offered in July and will be available through early August.
Stemilt is also offering the Kyle’s Pick Half Mile Closer to the Moon cherry label.
Those cherries are grown at the Amigos ranch, 2,500 to 3,500 feet above sea level. Harvest typically starts there by early to mid-August and continues for three to four weeks.
In other developments, Shales said Stemilt is also tweaking its pouch bag designs, leaving more room for consumers to see the cherries.
“The graphics are really kept all above the zipper and the design allows consumers to see exactly what they are buying,” she said.