Jul 26, 2016
Facilities use less energy, improve efficiency

The more apples you grow and pack, the more storage you need. If that storage is energy-efficient and improves the quality of your apples, so much the better. Here are two examples of growers who have built new storage facilities, and their reasons for doing so.

Crist Brothers Orchards

 Crist Brothers Orchards, based in Walden, New York, grows and packs about 600 acres of apples, most of them marketed by New York Apple Sales. The Crist family purchased a number of apple orchards over the years – and a number of outlying storage facilities, which grew obsolete. The Crists wanted to consolidate storage at their home farm, near the packing facility, and wanted to store their apples using the most up-to-date, energy-efficient technology possible.

Crist Family Orchards storage facility
Crist Family Orchards’ CA storage facility.

“We wanted to maximize the quality and storability of our apples, and send them out the door in the best possible condition,” said Jeff Crist, who runs the farm with his wife Joy, son Joel and daughter Jenny.

They built a new controlled atmosphere (CA) storage facility in 2013, with eight rooms that hold about 850 bins each. There’s a large loading and unloading area that’s refrigerated, and can serve as backup cold storage in an overflow situation. The storage controls can be operated remotely, using a smartphone, iPad or similar device. A Frigadon chilling system cools the facility, Jeff Crist said.

The facility is made of concrete and wood with some steel support. The CA rooms are made of prefabricated foam panels that ensure energy efficiency and an airtight seal, Jeff said.

Valicoff Fruit

Valicoff Fruit, based in Wapato, Washington, already had a 20- room CA facility, but needed to expand its storage capacity. The Valicoff family decided to build a new facility about a mile away from the old one, said General Manager Brett Valicoff.

Built in 2014, the new facility has six airtight CA rooms (oxygen levels are reduced, and CO2 levels are controlled with carbon scrubbers and other technology), with the potential to expand to 18. The building has a steel frame, with walls of insulated metal panels (and an insulated floor). At about 22,000 square feet, the facility can store roughly 12,000 bins (about 6,000 tons) of fresh fruit, Valicoff said.


Most fruit storage facilities are made of concrete, but the Valicoffs decided to go with steel. The cost was slightly higher, but the facility is more energy-efficient and better insulated. Going with steel was a bit of a “leap of faith,” but they’ll find out if the investment was worth it in the long run, Valicoff said.

Storage Control Systems (SCS) designed the facility, and worked with Concord Construction to build it. The facility uses a Hycool refrigeration system, designed and purchased through SCS and Versatile Refrigeration. Hycool is an alternative to the more common refrigerants Freon and ammonia, and is better for the environment – which the industry is putting much more emphasis on these days, Brett said.

Valicoff Fruit built a new storage facility in 2014, with six airtight CA rooms that can tore roughly 12,000 bins of fruit.
Valicoff Fruit built a new storage facility in 2014, with six airtight CA rooms that can tore roughly 12,000 bins of fruit.

The Valicoffs also retrofitted their apple packing line in 2014, adding new automated sorting technology from Dutch company Greefa, he said.

Brett Valicoff represents the fourth generation of his family to farm in Washington’s Yakima Valley. His father and uncle, Robert and Richard Valicoff, started packing fruit a few decades ago (the company also has a direct-market branch called Valicoff Family Farms). In 2011, the company moved to a larger complex to facilitate its growth. Apples are the main crop, but the Valicoffs also grow cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines and pears. They pack and ship fruit for other growers, too, he said.

— Matt Milkovich, managing editor

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