New Heeren, Elite Apple plants highlight upgrades

09/06/2013 09:55:00 AM
Andy Nelson

John Schaefer, president of Jack Brown Produce Inc.Sparta, Mich.-based Jack Brown Produce Inc. has made upgrades to its packing line in anticipation of a big 2013 crop, said John Schaefer, the company’s president.BELDING, Mich. — Several Michigan apple growers took advantage of the extra time off after 2012’s disastrous freeze and upgraded their facilities.

Heeren Bros. and its sales and marketing affiliate, All Fresh GPS LLC, plan to have their new 110,000-square-foot facility up and running by mid-October, said Tom Curtis, All Fresh’s president.

The facility features 50,000 square feet of production space and 60,000 square feet of controlled atmosphere storage, Curtis said. It will replace the current Ridge King packing facility nearby. Ridge King will retain its packing facility in Belding.

The new facility will double and possibly triple the output of the existing facility, Curtis said.

It features the only Washington-style wet line for apples in Michigan, said Joel Heeren, production manager for Ridge King.

The facility has room for growth, Heeren said.

Shared space

Another new facility with an All Fresh GPS connection is scheduled to be open for business in time for the earliest Michigan apple harvests.

Elite Apple, a facility 3 miles north of the new Heeren facility, is a joint effort among seven Michigan grower-shippers, said Scott Swindeman, an All Fresh GPS partner.

All Fresh GPS is marketing the fruit packed at Elite, a 55,000-square-foot facility that features 32,500 square feet of packing space.

“It was built to accommodate more of the new fruit that’s coming on in the state,” Swindeman said, referring to increased production in Michigan.

Elite does not have controlled atmosphere rooms, Swindeman said. The seven grower-shipper partners will continue to use their own CA space.

There’s plenty of room for whatever the owners see fit to add in the future, Swindeman said. Elite sits on 25 acres, with room to grow in three directions.

New plantings

New infrastructure like the Elite plant is catching up to the new plantings that have proliferated in the Wolverine State in the past five years, Swindeman said.

Recent increased emphasis on food safety is another reason Swindeman and his partners in Elite decided now was a good time to make their investment.

“With the new requirements, it’s going to get harder and harder for some facilities to keep up to date.”

In its first year, Elite expects to pack more than 1 million boxes of apples, Swindeman said. There’s no limit to the packing options.

“The line is set up to run 100% tray packs or 100% bags,” he said.


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