California Giant talks sustainability, new cooling facility

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California Giant talks sustainability, new cooling facility

With the peak Watsonville strawberry harvest quickly approaching, California Giant Berry Farms announced major renovations for its New West Cooling facility. The update comes as the company evaluates methods to minimize its environmental footprint, said vice president of marketing, Cindy Jewell, in an interview with Fresh Fruit Portal.

The $200,000 investment is expected to reduce fruit cooling time by about 20 minutes per tunnel and reduce energy usage by at least 25 to 30 percentIMG_8129.

“We’re just really trying to look at all of our systems, both in the fields and in our facilities to be more efficient and more conscious of energy and the environment in general. (We’re) trying to be good stewards of the land and our resources,” Jewell said.

The 35,000 sq. ft. facility received a complete new cooling tower and condenser system as part of the renovations. Like the company’s 1988 facility, the remodeled facility also has four cooling fans, but operators will now have the option to shut off unused fans, Jewell explained.

“This way if there is less fruit in the cooler to be cooled, we can run a portion of the unit instead of running the entire thing all of the time,” she said.

In line with the company’s sustainability goals, Jewell said there has also been discussion of installing solar panels in certain facilities.

California Giant also received grant funding last year to promote targeted, smart irrigation with micro sprinklers.

“We are still using drip but instead of just turning the drip on, the sensors within the soil were able to monitor the actual moisture in the soil and send an alert to our field person on the phone to say the soil is at a certain dryness,” Jewell said.

“So they were able to target where the water was used, how much was used, to really focus on the need.”

Regarding the recent draft protocol for Californian strawberries in China, Jewell said the company is interested, but still awaiting details.

“We at California Giant are pleased to hear that this may finally happen for our industry. We appreciate the opportunity to have additional markets for our strawberries in the future and will wait to see how we may be able to take advantage of a new export market,” Jewell said.

California Giant already exports strawberries to Hong Kong and to destinations along the Pacific Rim.

Photos: California Giant

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