In the fertile soil of the Columbia Basin, in the American state of Washington, the Easterday Farms family business has grown and packaged potatoes and onions for four generations. In order to add more value to their products, the company aims to further integrate into the market in a professional and future-oriented manner. They do this by trading their home-grown products themselves. The company invested in a new branch in Florida this year. This is where Manter, in collaboration with American partner Volm, placed the latest MD 14XL machine, while bearing the responsibility for the total engineering process.
The Easterday family applies the latest technologies for sorting, selecting, weighing and packing the 4 million onion and 4 million potato packings that the company trades on a yearly basis. At the source of this high number of onion and potato packings lies a total cultivation area of 18,500 acres, which is equivalent to 7,400 hectares. The area used for the annual cultivation of onions and potatoes amounts to 4,000 acres for each product. “By investing in modern technology and equipment we can limit the damage to our products to a minimum enabling us to improve the quality of the end product, resulting in beautiful fresh produce on the shelves of our customers”, explained Senior Production Manager Andrew Wills with great enthusiasm. He further told us that Easterday Farms, when organising the small packing stations, had already been collaborating for many years with the American Volm Companies from Antigo, Manter’s partner in the United States. The company started packing onions in 1995, in Pasco. They opened a new branch in Othello in 2005, where the company packs red and white onions. What followed this year was an investment in a new branch in Elkton, in the north of Florida. This is an even better location for Easterday Farms to provide the south eastern customers with onions and potatoes more quickly as the company strives to deliver the order either that same day or the next day at the latest. The potatoes and onions grown at the farm in Washington are transported to this location where they are packed.
Quick packer exchange
Up to 2010 the potatoes were supplied mostly in bulk to the processing industry. “This contract-based cultivation gave us little added value. As we are proud of our product, we now sell a large share of our potatoes under our own brand name. Sales channels are the catering business as a whole, supermarkets and local shops. This extension also added value to the onion package. “The goal was to create more added value for our own products”, stressed Willis. The collaboration of many years with Volm revolves around the knowledge of both weighing and packing as well as the logistics process. The entire logistics process for the new Easterday branch in Florida was developed in a close collaboration between the technical engineers of Volm and Manter. Which proved necessary as Easterday demanded the quick and easy exchange of packings beneath the MD14 XL weigher. The company supplies foil packing with a volume of 2 American pounds, but also netted bags up to 50 American pounds, boxes and dozens of other packings of in-between sizes. Being able to quickly change from one packer to the other, such as the MBP-SAB and box filler is, therefore, a prerequisite. The staff of Manter and Volm developed the Manter Control for this purpose. The entire line in Florida consists of a weigher with various packers. In order to quickly change the packing, a central interface was developed. This enables the operator to set all machines, i.e. the weigher, the packer, and the conveyor belts in the direction of the palletiser to the desired program from one location. Changing packing from netted bags to packing into clip bags can be done at the touch of a button. All machines will align to the relevant preset and all the required conveyor belts will start up. This saves an incredible amount of time in resetting the various machines which previously had to be done per machine.
“Creating this interface between the machines was a very high tech and professional solution”, emphasised Willes with great satisfaction. In respect of the future, the American company is convinced that its growth and development will continue. “We plan to also set up cultivation in Florida. It will enable us to provide our growing group of customers in the USA and other countries with fresh table potatoes and onions early in the season. As we consider automation very important for the continuity of our enterprise, it will undoubtedly result in new projects that require the knowledge and experience of Volm and Manter”, shared Willis with great satisfaction.