FOWLER, Calif. — More than 90% of the nearly 100 million cartons of table grapes grown annually in California are produced on farms in the San Joaquin Valley.
There has not been, however, a valley-based manufacturer supplying picking tubs for those grapes — until now.
In the past, the only sources of the tubs were in Southern California and the Pacific Northwest.
PPS Packaging Co., Fowler, began manufacturing the picking tubs in January, said Galen Van Aalsburg, agricultural sales manager. The company is cranking out 600 tubs per shift, he said.
“By the start of the season, our distributors will have enough picking tubs to take care of all San Joaquin Valley growers,” Van Aalsburg said.
The tubs, made of high molecular polyethylene, are used by pickers to transport the just-harvested grapes to a field packing shed or to a truck that takes the fruit to a packinghouse.
In most vineyards, a worker stacks several of the tubs on a mini hand truck and transports the fruit to the packing center.
The tubs weigh less than 2 pounds each but can hold up to 50 pounds of grapes, Van Aalsburg said.
“And they are nearly indestructible,” he said. “Step on a tub, and it will pop right back to shape,”
The tubs’ durability makes them competitive from a cost standpoint, Van Aalsburg said. Usable life is projected to be about four years, he said.
Another advantage to the tubs is that they are environmentally friendly.
“The tubs are 100% recyclable, and our materials supplier recycles the scrap plastic that is trimmed during the manufacturing process,” Van Aalsburg said.
The tubs can be custom formed to nearly any specification, he said. For instance, a grower-shipper’s name can be molded into the plastic.
The manufacturing process is relatively straight forward. A sheet of the high molecular polyethylene goes from a heating process that softens the plastic to a form. The plastic is then vacuumed into the form, which produces four tubs.
The picking tubs are the first plastic agricultural product to be manufactured by PPS Packaging, Van Aalsburg said.
However, it has long produced a variety of pads that are inserted in cartons to protect fresh produce, he said.