High-Tech Avocado Facility

San Diego County, which produced about half of California's 435-million-pound avocado crop last year, will have a new high-tech packing house to help handle 1985's even larger crop, which is estimated to swell to 562 million pounds.

Calavo Growers of California, a Los Angeles-based cooperative whose 2,700 growers produce nearly half the state's crop, will build the new plant off Interstate 15 at Rancho California Industrial Park II in Temecula. It will handle fruit from Rancho California and northern San Diego County, said President Dave Freistadt.

The cooperative has bought a seven-acre site in the park, and expects to begin construction of a 60,000 square foot packing house in late spring, with completion expected by early next year. The facility will be capable of packing 400,000 pounds of avocados a day, slightly more than the capacity at each of Calavo's existing plants in nearby Escondido, Santa Paula and Santa Barbara, Freistadt said.

The new plant will offer the industry's first forced-air system to precool avocados before packing, he said, and sizing and packing will be computer-controlled. Growers in the area account for nearly 20% of Calavo's crop, Freistadt said, and until now have been served by a smaller local packer, with the rest of their fruit trucked to the cooperative's other plants and a Fullerton firm.

"With most trees young and of the popular Hass variety," he said, "the outlook is for continuing major increases in production." The new plant will increase the cooperative's flexibility in harvest and packing operations while reducing packing costs, he added. Growers have been faced this year with a glut of fruit that has depressed prices.

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