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FoodTech Report

Volume 8 Issue 1

Eco Farms balances organic philosophies with processing solutions to grow its business

By Amy Bittner, associate product manager, fresh produce technologies for JBT FoodTech

Organic food regulation does not end at the farm gate. Every aspect of processing fresh, organic produce is an important consideration for companies like Eco Farms — a California, U.S.A.,-based grower, packer and shipper of organic citrus and avocados.

In the United States, organic food is produced by using practices that conserve biodiversity and natural resources, and promote ecological balance. To grow an organic product means to do so without the use of pesticides, fertilizer made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. All organic products must be certified in accordance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program.

Norm Traner, director of Eco Farms, works side by side with JBT FoodTech to find processing solutions that optimize his operations while aligning with organic production and processing requirements. Organic-compliant cleaning solutions and wax coatings increase the quality and shelf life of his produce, and processing equipment provides operational efficiency and increased throughput.

“We have been in business for close to 40 years and continue to expand, which is why we need to adopt the most efficient, cost-effective practices that remain within organic guidelines,” Traner says.

Quick and safe cleaning

Eco Farms uses large bins, each of which can hold up to 1,000 pounds of produce, to transport harvested produce from the field to the packing house. Traner’s team processes about 300 bins per day. Often, these empty bins are left in the field before they are used for picking, so after they are brought back to the facility, they require thorough cleaning and sanitation.

The JBT FoodTech Bin Scrubber System, a cleaning apparatus designed for use on plastic and wood bins, helps Eco Farms automate the cleaning process, making it more efficient. Field bins are delivered to the scrubber on an automatic line. A cradle elevates and tips the bin onto a brush head that spins and scrubs difficult-to-reach surfaces and corners while high-pressure nozzles spray the exterior of the bin clean.

VigorOx® sanitizers work well as a cleaning solution for equipment like the Bin Scrubber System. They are one of a limited number of sanitizers approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that complies with USDA organic regulations for direct application to the surface of fruits and vegetables. This type of sanitizer is critical for food safety compliance. In addition, VigorOx products also are approved for use with USDA quarantine requirements for citrus canker, a bacterial disease affecting citrus.

Extend freshness naturally

While processing and packing citrus, JBT FoodTech Fruit Cleaner 123 assists in the removal of any dirt or the natural wax coating on the outside of the fruit’s peel. This results in a cleaner produce surface ideal for the application of JBT FoodTech Sta-Fresh® protective coatings.

Sta-Fresh protective coatings replace the lost natural wax, reducing shrinkage that can occur from water loss and maintaining the vitality of the fruit. The coatings are specially formulated to maximize flavor preservation of produce, improve product appearance, extend shelf life and increase marketability. Produce retains its freshness from the moment it leaves the packing house until sale on the domestic or international market.

“The storage life of produce without wax is very short,” Traner says. “We grow and pack our produce in a dry climate, which most of the time contributes to longer storage life. However, it was difficult to find a wax that worked well for us and was approved for use on organic produce.”

Traner selected Sta-Fresh wax coating because it is easy to apply and does not make his produce look overly glazed. The coating also washes off equipment without leaving a residue, he says.

Experts on hand

JBT FoodTech offers a portfolio of products that comply with the USDA National Organic Program and international regulations. The company’s regulatory experts, scientists and industry specialists work directly with processors’ accredited certifying agents to ensure ingredient compliance and proper documentation. 

Eco farms

To learn more about JBT FoodTech organic fruit and vegetable processing, visit the JBT FoodTech Web site.


Sta-Fresh® is a registered trademark of JBT FoodTech. 
VigorOx® is a registered trademark of FMC Corporation and is used pursuant to a license from FMC Corporation. 

©2010 JBT Corporation. All rights reserved.


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