To Frank Maconachy, longtime builder of harvesting aids and a member of the Western Growers Board of Directors, the film wrap machine developed by BrimaPack offers a great money-saving opportunity for grower-shippers.
In fact, he is a bit baffled by the lack of sales BrimaPack has experienced in the California marketplace since the Dutch firm introduced the film wrap machine several years ago. “I think it is just going to take one guy buying it and then everyone is going to follow suit,” he told WG&S at a recent trade show where he was exhibiting the machine in a booth his company, Ramsay Highlander Inc., shared with BrimaPack representatives.
Maconachy has been building labor-saving harvesting aids from his Salinas Valley facility for many, many years. His winged machines with different levels of automation can be found in fields up and down California, Arizona and elsewhere. In fact, he said business is very good as he has several orders in hand for his machines. Several of those companies are contemplating adding the automated film wrappers. Maconachy believes it would be an excellent decision.
Though the wrap machines are costly and do add significant up-front costs to a harvesting machine, Maconachy said the payback in labor savings is immediate. He estimated that a winged machine outfitted with the film wrap equipment can reduce a film wrap lettuce crew by 10 to 12 slots. “Do the math and the machines will pay for themselves within a couple of years,” he said, adding that the equipment will then pay dividends for many more years to come.
Ron van de Pavert, president of the Netherlands based firm, said he has sold many of the wrapping machines in both its field and shed forms around the world, but not yet in the United States. He said the system can save up to 50 percent of packing costs and enhances shelf life while improving shelf presentation.
The field wrap machine that he was showing at this particular trade show was the one designed for a field operation and is commonly used by other growers around the world with iceberg lettuce. But van de Pavert said it works well with broccoli and several other vegetables as well. In essence, the equipment automates the wrapping process, eliminating that position on a winged harvesting aid.
While there was a bit of frustration with regard to the reluctance of U.S. shippers to adopt what Maconachy believes is a significant advancement in field packing, the Salinas veteran understands the reticence. He said it does involve an upfront investment and most grower-shippers like to see someone else using a new innovation before adopting it themselves. He is convinced, however, that when the first grower-shippers start using the equipment and others see the labor-savings that accrue, BrimaPack will have its hands full with orders.
“It’s just a matter of time,” Maconachy said.
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