The California Department of Pesticide Regulation has honored four state groups with IPM Innovators Awards, including one within production agriculture.

Since 1994, when the awards were begun, more than 100 California organizations have been recognized for their integrated pest management efforts that reduce risks associated with pesticide use and for sharing their methods with others.

Parlier-based FreshSense provides consumer research, marketing strategies, promotion, and quality standards and practices for three brands grown in the Central Valley: Ripe ‘n Ready; Treehouse Kids; and Zeal, an eco-label targeting socially and environmentally conscious consumers.

The efforts began with stone fruit but this year moved into citrus.

FreshSense was launched by owners Fowler Packing Co., SunWest Fruit Co. and Ballantine Produce Co. to more effectively build brands, beginning with Zeal, in the United States and abroad.

All Zeal and Treehouse Kids fruit is certified by Protected Harvest, a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable agricultural practices.

The organization certifies farmers for “green” production practices by documenting that a product has met environmentally sound and scientifically based soil, water and pesticide standards. Protected Harvested-certified producers hope to receive higher prices for their fruit, enjoy a steadier market and save money with their agricultural practices.

Zeal is the only major brand that is 100 percent guaranteed to have certified fruit, according to a news release. Treehouse Kids is a small, promotional brand that FreshSense uses for specific marketing purposes.

Ripe ‘N Ready covers stone fruit that FreshSense does not guarantee comes from farms certified by Protected Harvest. Much of the fruit is certified, but FreshSense is still working to incorporate Protected Harvest standards into about 40 percent of its orchards.

FreshSense, for example, is working with local water authorities to build natural stone weirs in its foothill orchards to help filter water runoff from the hills before it reaches streams and rivers.

The company also is developing a global positioning system that will carefully monitor pest populations in its orchards and minimize pesticide use.

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