A new, 20m tall building has been taking shape since November last year alongside the Te Puke Highway, just to the west of town. The building is to be EastPack's second fully automated coolstore; really one big expensive fridge.
Another, at its Te Puke Quarry Rd site, is larger, but nothing like as prominent. Eastpack CEO Hamish Simson says the reasons for the Quarry Rd building and the new one at the Collins Lane site are twofold.
''We are increasingly looking at automation to achieve a few outcomes,'' he says. ''We are getting to the point where we have less and less usable land on our sites, so you can't go out any more, you've got to go up, so that was one driver.''
For storage options requiring forklifts, the height limit is the equivalent of three storeys, meaning an automation is needed for anything higher.
''The other driver was, technology's always changing. [The new stores] use a hybrid of a couple of technologies, what we call large robotic cranes which run down and aisle and carry a pallet and put it in a slot and what we call a shuttle so, for very deep racking, the shuttle then picks up the pallet and takes it deep into the racking. The two technologies were married together actually not that long ago — two or three years ago, we wouldn't even have considered this as a solution.''
The new building on Te Puke Quarry Rd was the first time the combined technology has been used in the kiwifruit industry. It can hold 1.2 million trays. The new building at Collins Lane will hold a million trays.