Good Fruit Grower

November 2016

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8 NOVEMBER 2016 GOOD FRUIT GROWER P allets stand fi ve racks high, cramped, dark and sci-fi eerie. Robotic cranes, guided by lasers and bar codes, retrieve the pallets while auto- matic dollies on a looped track wheel them to and from a web of scaffolding. No need for people in the catacombs of Matson Fruit's cold storage warehouse in Selah, Washington, where electronics move inventory in tight quarters, staggering heights and near freezing environments with an effi - ciency way beyond that of a human. "People aren't so good at it; computers are awesome at it," said Jordan Matson, who oversees packing and shipping for the company. Matson Fruit is in its third year with a state-of-the-art cold storage facility that uses a mixture of robotic cranes, computerized inventory and automatic dollies to pack pallets of apples and pears higher and denser, with fewer people and less energy than a conventional cold storage unit that relies on people driving forklifts. Matson, a member of the fi fth-generation of owners in the company, declined to share numbers but estimated his family company spent 20 to 30 percent more on the automated warehouse than it would have on a conven- tional warehouse with the same capacity. "You have to be pretty tech-savvy, innovative and a little bit insane probably to do this," Matson said. But it's working, he said, and other fruit packing companies in the Northwest are considering similar developments. Cold, hard Matson Fruit leads industry in automated cold storage technology. by Ross Courtney photos by TJ Mullinax effi ciency New Technology

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