packer
Amy Sowder

Visitors in a private tour of Pomona Packing in Wolcott, N.Y., saw how the apple-sorting lines worked using new technology to streamline the sorting and packing process. Pomona started in 2010 to serve local apple growers, as well as New York Apple Sales, in the fresh apple arena.

packer
Amy Sowder

Labeling machines roll through apples like old-time film projectors and smack oval-shaped label stickers onto the apples as they pass underneath the machinery at Empire Fruit Growers, Wolcott, N.Y. 

packer
Amy Sowder

Jim Allen of United Apple Sales and Rich Leous of Empire Fruit Growers in Wolcott, N.Y., show how once the apples are packed and boxed according to customer requirements, they're stacked in a temperature controlled room before being shipped out.

packer
Amy Sowder

Based on the customers that New York Apple Sales gives Empire Fruit Growers, the grower-packer cooperative will drop apples in different lanes of varying quality, size, shape, condition. Their equipment has the capacity to sort and pack eight to 11 different stock-keeping units of different products sizes all at the same time, said general manager Rich Leous. 

packer
Amy Sowder

At Empire Fruit Growers, senior production supervisor Rachel Webber runs quality and sorting reports. "We're doing several different sizes right now. Our equipment looks at every single apple and at the end of a lot, it will give me a report with a size break, pieces and percentage per size. It tells me the breakdown of what went to juice and what didn't," said Webber, who has been working for Empire since 1994, when she started as a packer on the line. She changes belt speeds and sometimes stops sections for quality and logistical control.

packer
Amy Sowder

Based on the customers that New York Apple Sales gives Empire Fruit Growers, the grower-packer cooperative will drop apples in different lanes of varying quality, size, shape, condition. Their equipment has the capacity to sort and pack eight to 11 different stock-keeping units of different products sizes all at the same time, said general manager Rich Leous. 

packer
Amy Sowder

Sometimes apple-packing houses remove apples from wooden crates by lowering the bin into water and tilting it forward so the apples float out gently. It's a way to prevent bruising.

packer
Amy Sowder

Pomona Packing in Wolcott, N.Y., uses a dedicated packing system for its apples. "We're on the groundbreaking edge of new varieties. Koru is a lot of what we sell. I think galas and fujis are picking up, and then SnapDragons are doing really well," said Chris Hogan, assistant plant manager.

packer
Amy Sowder

New internal defect sorting technology enables packers to weed out apples that are unblemished on the outside skin but harbor undesirable traits inside the fruit’s flesh. 

packer
Amy Sowder

Apples can look perfect on the outside, but have serious internal damage that renders them inedible. To sort out those bad apples better, Niagara Fresh Fruit Co., a division of Bucolo Cold Storage in Burt, N.Y., installed a new internal sorter in early December. “It’s something I think most packers will have to have,” said Niagara plant manager Jack Baes. “If a customer takes an apple home to her kids, cuts it open and it’s brown inside, well, that’s a black eye for everyone in this industry. It’s another line of defense for us to make sure everything goes into these boxes clean.” 

packer
Amy Sowder

Niagara Fresh Fruit Co., Burt, N.Y., is a member of Crunch Time Apple Growers, a cooperative of exclusive growers of SnapDragon and RubyFrost proprietary varieties. Niagara Fresh goes through 500,000-750,000 boxes or bushels of apples a year, said plant manager Jake Baes. There are 18 tray lines, and each apple has photos taken of it and is internally checked, sorted and weighed.

packer
Amy Sowder

“We pack galas every day, and we’re growing a lot of Evercrisp,” said second-generation grower Paul Wafler, left, as he tours his orchard in December with his son, Kyle, right. “Evercrisp may be the new HoneyCrisp. It’s managed in a way that’s friendlier to growers compared to other club varieties.” The two Waflers, along with Paul’s wife, Susan, and other son, Jake, run a nursery, orchard and packing house, as well as create new farming equipment and techniques at Wafler Farms, Wolcott, N.Y. 

packer
Amy Sowder

At family-run Wafler Farms, Wolcott, N.Y., they run a nursery too, experimenting with new apple varieties. Paul Wafler, left, is the second generation and his two third-generation sons are Kyle, 22, who focuses on the orchard, and Jacob, 20, who is more passionate about the nursery. Wife and mother Susan Wafler also runs the place, focusing on the business operations.

packer
Amy Sowder

H.H. Dobbins Fruit brings in the apples from growers and packs it for United Apple Sales, Lyndonville, N.Y., which markets the fresh produce to retailers. The packer added a new line in August 2017, and also acquired robotic bin-filling equipment that sorts medium-grade apples into bulk bins filled with two sizes that will be sold in fresh slices. “We get three times as much of a return for slicing apples as we would for selling it to cider and juice companies,” said sales manager Brett Baker. “It’s a higher level of defect grade that doesn’t make the grade for high-end retail.” 

packer
Amy Sowder

New technology that automated tasks previously performed by employees took several jobs, but then the increased efficiency meant more product could be moved, which then required more employees, said sales manager Brett Baker at United Apple Sales, Lyndonville, N.Y.

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