IMG Citrus, Vero Beach, Fla., has purchased a 4,000-acre grapefruit grove in St. Lucie County.
With the purchase, the grower-packer-shipper increases its control of citrus land management by more than 75%, according to a news release. The grove has been renamed Happy Food Grove by IMG Citrus, which markets citrus under the Happy Food brand.
IMG Citrus President Michel Sallin said citrus greening disease, which has devastated the Florida citrus industry, makes such an investment risky, but the company has an aggressive approach to the disease.
“We believe in this industry and we believe in Florida grapefruit,” Sallin said in the release. “A solution to greening will be found, and when that day comes, we’ll be ready.”
The company uses high-density planting methods to combat greening, aka huanglongbing (HLB), Brian Randolph, director of grove production said.
“In the new grove, we can optimize nutrient and water management, a critical factor for production in a greening environment,” Randolph said in the release. “This level of precision not only helps keep the trees healthy, but it’s more environmentally sustainable by reducing water use and nutrient runoff.”
IMG Citrus plans to use almost 400 undeveloped acres for a new grove project, with 273 acres of citrus trees for high-density production, expected to produce mature fruit within three years. The remaining 124 acres of trees will be set in existing traditional blocks, according to the release.
The company fine-tuned the process at its sister company, Cherrylake Tree Farm.
As part of the purchase, 17 employees of the former owner have retained their positions with IMG Citrus, according to the release.
The company exports to Canada, Europe and Asia.