November 2013

YGA Group at Knouse Foods

YGA Group at Knouse Foods

Young Grower Alliance Tours Knouse Foods and Rice Fruit Company

Ben Keim, YGA Liaison to SHAP Board of Directors

On November 12th a large contingent of young growers had the opportunity to visit two premier Mid-Atlantic fruit companies--Knouse Foods and Rice Fruit Company. The day began at the Peach Glenn plant of Knouse foods. Members were able to tour the storage facility as well as the plant itself. The storage facility contained 18 controlled atmosphere rooms (9 per side) that each can hold 34,000 bushels. Knouse strives to be as efficient as possible and as a result refrigerates the corridor separating the CA rooms as well. Inside the plant, Young Grower Alliance (YGA) members were able to see machines as simple as peeling and coring, to those that use cameras and air jets to remove slices of apples that have defects.

What was the most unique sight at Knouse Foods was their array of 14,136 solar panels. The panels were installed on 19 acres with the assistance of grant money awarded to the company. The panels create energy which then goes directly to the plant. With the ability to generate over 4 million kwh/year, the panels can supply the plant with almost one third of the energy needed. As plants process fruit year round it is a great way to help power the facility since energy can be created even on cloudy day.

After a wonderful discussion with Ken Guise, Dave Cox, Jr. and the leadership at Knouse Foods, the group went from touring a processing plant to the packing facilities of Rice Fruit Company. Much like Knouse Foods, Rice aims to be as efficient as possible when packing. One way they are able to do this is through the use of a pre-sizer. This machine allows them to size tree run fruit before it is packed, and then fill orders more rapidly when only a specific sized is required. With two packing lines and about 2 million boxes to pack, having that direct information on size and volume of fruit is critical. John Rice and his team were also nice enough to share their thoughts about where the fresh apple industry is trending, variety selection, and emerging markets that they see in the future.

Throughout the day, young growers were also able to hear how each of these businesses is preparing their next generation of leadership. It was helpful to meet and talk with these individuals first hand. They are the people many of us will be working with in the future. YGA would like to thank Ken Guise, Dave Cox, Jr., John Rice, and all of the members of Knouse Foods and Rice Fruit Company for their time and knowledge.

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Donald Seifrit
  • Extension Educator, Tree Fruit