Continuing to improve the warehouse facilities to maximize grower returns by most effectively utilizing labor and technology is and has been a priority of Columbia Fruit. In 2014 we installed a state of the art Cherry packing line. We followed suit in 2017 with the installation of a new Apple packing line. Our long-term fruit storage and packed fruit storage facilities are industry standard as well.
We always invite our growers in to watch their fruit run. We believe clear communication between the warehouse and the orchard is vital.
It is our intent to supply safe, quality fruit to our customers. At Columbia Fruit Packers, Inc., food safety and quality is an integral part of our operation. It starts with the receiving of fruit and materials and continues through storage, packing, and shipment of fruit to our customers.
To ensure that our goals are accomplished, we have established a comprehensive Food Safety and Quality Program. Our Food Safety/HACCP and Food Quality programs have been established internally. Our program is based on the SQF Code, Edition 8 system for Produce Packing House – Food Sector Category 4, and on the requirements set by the SQF Code, Edition 8.
To confirm that these requirements are met and maintained, we are audited by a third party approved by SQF on an annual basis. Our marketing company, also conducts monthly unannounced audits.
Although the burden of food safety is in the hands of management and supervisors, all employees serve as inspectors when product moves through their area. The concepts of our program rely on teamwork, continuous operation improvements, and communication between management, sales, and production employees. All our employees are encouraged to use their talents in helping to maintain and/or improve product safety and quality.
Farming is as much an art as it is a science. Here at Columbia Fruit Packers, Inc. we ensure that sustainable practices are monitored and verified as a participant of the Global G.A.P. (Good Agricultural Practices) program. The vision is to provide high quality food produced by passionate farmers for consumers around the world. Integrated pest management techniques, involving biological and cultural controls, are also used in the orchards to reduce pesticide use aiding in the ability of providing safe and sustainable fruit.
Journey of the Fruit
Instead of a traditional drying tunnel which has confined space issues and is difficult to clean, the drying room is something developed to simply open the door and walk in. The ambient air temperature is 120 degrees or lower; and it is easily accessible for cleaning.
Columbia Fruit Packers can size the fruit while sorting for both external and internal issues. This is a huge advantage to our business as the consumer becomes more specific about what they want. We can sort accordingly, maximizing our ability to deliver what the consumer requires.
A standard sorter will sort fruit by size and color. New technology allows sorting for external defects where the camera takes up to 30 pictures while the apple is transported rapidly underneath. All the pictures are sent and analyzed by computer in nanoseconds while the roller cup continues down a lane and is instructed whether to keep the apple first, then precisely where to drop the apple for the right size and grade, a process that happens over a million times a day. Additionally, when needed, a technology termed Near-infrared (NIR) is able to peer inside the fruit and identify internal defects, something not often needed but imperative to have when such defects are identified - all this without touching or damaging the apple.
One of the challenges the industry faces is the number of consumer packs that we continue to have to fulfill. At the warehouse we pack 15 varieties or more and generate over 40 different package types, something the industry calls SKU’s (Stock Keeping Unit). It’s an exciting time in the industry, we are able to move more fruit with different consumer packs.