Riverside, Calif.-based avocado grower-shipper Index Fresh Inc. is building a 60,000-square-foot ripening, bagging and cold-storage facility in Pharr, Texas, to handle the increased volume of fruit crossing the border.
The building is expected to open in late October or early November, close to the beginning of the 2018 Mexico avocado deal, said Dana Thomas, the company’s president and CEO.
“The Mexican avocado business is a really important part of what we do,” Thomas said.
Index Fresh has had a presence in South Texas since 2005, having contracted space at the Crosspoint Cold Storage Inc. facility in Pharr — comparable to other lease arrangements Index Fresh has in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa and Colorado, Thomas said.
“They’ve been great partners,” Thomas said of Crosspoint.
It will be Index Fresh’s second company-owned ripening center. The other is in California.
“We have packing-ripening-repacking-bagging for everything off the West Coast and other ripening done with other partnership agreements to avoid the costs of bricks and mortar,” Thomas said.
With Pharr, investing in a company facility made more sense than continuing to lease space, Thomas said.
“In this case, it’s a worthwhile investment because of the sheer volume we’ll bring through it,” he said. “We did an extensive analysis. Since we’ll have most of our Mexican volume coming through this facility, the critical mass brings the cost down to a really attractive level.”
Index Fresh ships a range of 60-120 truckloads of avocados from Mexico to the U.S. each week. The company also sells avocados from California, Peru and Chile.
Index Fresh also ships Mexican avocados into the U.S. through Nogales, Ariz., but that fruit is ripened in California, Thomas said.
Fort Wayne, Indiana-based cold-storage builder Tippmann Innovation is building the Pharr facility.
“We’ve been growing every year in Mexico, and this facility looks toward the future and allows us to grow into the future, as well,” Thomas said.
The company purchased eight acres in the Pharr Produce Park to allow for future expansion Thomas said.
Thomas declined to disclose the cost of the expansion, which includes space for 10 ripening rooms and bagging and repacking operations.
The building was designed to accommodate future expansion readily, without slowing production, Tippmann said in a news release.
Thomas said a site in Pharr was selected for two reasons.
“First, we worked there for 12 years and it’s really worked well for us,” he said. “The Pharr Bridge carries a lot of produce. The city and people that manage the bridge are real interested in making produce work smoothly across that bridge, and we appreciate that.”
Secondly, Index Fresh’s customers preferred Pharr as a location.
“When we started this project, we looked at several areas, including places like Dallas or Houston, and did an analysis of traffic flow and cost and asked customers where they wanted to pick up their fruit; Pharr came in as an overwhelming favorite,” Thomas said.
The building is going up “at the foot” of the Pharr Bridge, “so it’s convenient for trucks coming across,” Thomas said.
Customers will be able to pick up product at the facility f.o.b. or have Index Fresh deliver it, Thomas said.