Kroeker Farms Ltd. is taking steps to position the family-owned potato company as the leader in their field into the next 20 years and beyond with a new state-of-the-art facility. The agricultural producer and distributor located in Winkler recently turned the switch on a nearly 70,000 sq. ft. washing/packing plant at their Circle K Drive location.
CEO Wayne Rempel explains they've greatly expanded into organic potato varieties, making them the largest organic potato producer in Canada, and continue to ship across North America. "The market has changed a lot over the years, and we've had lots of expansion opportunities because of the excellent quality we produce in our area."
While organic potatoes were a new venture, Rempel says they didn't hesitate "because we knew the customer wanted it. We believe we're marketers first, we plant what we can sell."
CEO Wayne Rempel. Photo credit: Kroeker Farms
However, they were limited by their processing capacity for washing and packing product. Prior to the expansion, they were running two shifts 24 hours a day with over-time. "We were maxed out," Rempel explains. "We couldn't ship anymore. Even though we had market opportunities to expand... we couldn't take those on because we limited by the capacity."
The new plant offers more capacity, a better quality wash and sorts more sizes of potatoes. The facility also employs a number of efficiencies that drastically cut back on water usage.
Efficiency is the key to the future, Rempel says. "This is really going to help us be competitive across North America."
Harwin Bouwman, VP of Business Development and Innovation was tasked with creating the new plant and notes they set a new record recently, achieving three times the capacity of their previous plant.
The plant expansion doubled the facility from 30,000 to nearly 70,000 sq. ft. and created two wash lines for organic and conventional produce. The assembly line was created by cherry-picking the best machines and equipment from around the world including optical graders that take high-resolution photos of each potato and automatically sorts them by quality and size.
"Machines from Holland, Denmark, Germany, New Zealand... we really assembled the best of everything to build what we thought was the best way to handle potatoes for the next 20 years," Bouwman explains.
It took a full year to design the plant before assembling the two kilometres of conveyors, 600 sensors, 480 motors and 50 kilometres of wire, and then another year and a half to install.
Official opening of the new plant. Photo credit: Kroeker Farms.
Article courtesy of: pembinavalleyonline.com