Hood River, Ore.-based Diamond Fruit Growers has unveiled a packing line specifically engineered for pears from Unitec.
Diamond Fruit Growers chairman Scott Halliday and president David Garcia were joined at a July 16 event by Unitec CEO Angelo Benedetti, who made his first trip from Italy to the U.S. for the presentation, according to a news release.
Wenatchee, Wash.-based Starr Ranch Growers, which began an exclusive sales partnership with Diamond Fruit Growers in 2008 to create the brand “Diamond Starr Growers,” were represented by CEO Brett Reasor and director of marketing Scott Marboe, according to the release.
Halliday said in the release that the Unitec line specifically addresses pear characteristics and the equipment investment positions the company for long-term success.
The new 18-lane sizer will run 100 bins per hour, according to the release, replacing two presizing machines. Garcia said that 12-15 employees can run the machine each shift, compared to 75 employees per shift with the previous line. Shrink is expected to be reduced by half with the gentler handling.
“This is the first pear line in the world to flip pears over from one side to the other,” Garcia said in the release. “All other lines roll them through like an apple.”
Garcia said in 2010 Diamond Fruit Growers started a project to find and install machinery made just for pears.
“We wanted to be here another 100 years,” Garcia said of the century-old operation. “And (in the search for a specific line) we quickly discovered there was not a lot of new technology in pears.”
A research team traveled to Europe, he said, and found an apple line that had been adapted for pears in Holland using optic sorting, according to the release.
“Then we went to Unitec,” Garcia said. Within about a year Unitec had preliminary plans for a start-to-finish pear line, and Diamond signed on.
The full design took a couple of years, and a prototype was used by Diamond for the 2017 season, according to the release. The line began full operation this year with the start of the pear season in mid-July, according to the release.
Starr Ranch’s Reasor said the line will give customers consistent quality and provide consumers with better pears.
“We are excited to have this new line for our customers, growers and the industry,” Marboe said in the release. “The technology behind it with the optical sorting, sizing and other capabilities is going to help keep the pear category growing in the right direction now and the future.”