The umbrella of CMI Orchards’ owners and partners are using cutting-edge technology from the orchard to packing facilities.
“A big focus at CMI Orchards is to strategically forecast marketplace dynamics 10 years from now. This helps us understand how technology can be used to help our growers produce fruit in the most efficient manner to meet anticipated consumer demands,” explained Bob Mast, president of CMI Orchards.
One example of this is the software used in orchards to monitor soil moisture levels at different elevations. “This digital monitoring provides real-time data on temperature, soil moisture and wind speed to my phone. This helps maintain proper fruit size and reduces disease and waste in our organic blocks,” explained Mike Robinson, co-owner of Double Diamond Fruit.
Other examples include:
- CMI Orchards’ owners and partners have invested in state-of-the-art sorting machinery in their packing sheds. “We grade and size cherries optically, taking photos of each cherry from multiple camera angles, which allows us to analyze firmness and quality,” explained Robinson.
- McDougall & Sons added five robotic tray fillers to its packing lines last season. “We’re now running packing stations that use robots to place the fruit in trays after grading and sorting. We’ve been incredibly pleased with the performance,” explained Bryon McDougall, co-owner of the company.
- “Because of the expected increase in consumer demand to purchasing packaged fruit, we’ve upgraded our packing systems. Our automated pouch bagging system automatically weighs, labels and seals the fruit to limit handling prior to sale,” explained Marc Spears, co-owner of Pine Canyon Growers. “Shoppers seem to like the conveniences pouch bags offer and packing this way offers advantages from a packing efficiency standpoint.
- “We’re currently considering an upgrade to our quality control process and looking at technology which will allow us to do a better job of forecasting size and grade in our inventory system,” added Spears. “The end goal is to utilize innovation and technology to produce product for our customers and to ensure maximum returns for our growers.
- “We use ozone in our storage facilities to further improve quality. With our growing focus on organics, effectively using ozone has been an important addition to our storage process. It prolongs the life of the fruit,” explained Brandt Fritz, production manager at Columbia Fruit Packers. “We are continually monitoring new technology and innovation and testing based on what we believe will best meet our customers’ needs. The use of technology has allowed us to increase our efficiency, lower costs and keep pace with consumer demand.”
- “At Yakima Fruit, shifting consumer preferences and a need to maintain a competitive price point leads us to look for new innovation that can help us maintain quality,” explained Mike Wilcox, co-owner of Yakima Fruit. “Many of our technology upgrades are driven by consumer demand and trying to increase efficiency with labor-intensive jobs. For example, we’re currently looking at a new palletization system that will provide efficiency with stacking and storage.”