Baloian Farms has put the finishing touches on a packing line designed for smaller peppers in Culiacan, Mexico, just in time for the start of this season.

The installation marks the third of its type that the Fresno, Calif.-based vegetable grower-shipper has completed during the past year. The other two are in Thermal and Fresno, Calif., said Jeremy Lane, sales manager.

The shear growth of the pepper category was behind the capital investments, he said.

“It’s a big investment, so we studied the category quite intensively and invested a lot of money in studying the category,” Lane said. “Just in the last year, the whole pepper category grew, and mini-sweets and baby bells were part of that.”

The new equipment also should speed and improve packing efficiency of the petite peppers, he said.

The grower-shipper ordered custom-fabricated lines for both its Thermal and Fresno operations in 2013 so it wouldn’t have to move equipment between facilities as the seasons shifted.

Each line includes an area where the petite peppers undergo an ozonated wash, brushes, conveyors and sorting areas.

From there, the peppers are carried by elevators to Weigh Right machines that drop them, based on a designated weight, into bags.

In addition to the small colored peppers, the machinery also can handle chili peppers, Lane said.

The Culiacan line, which was installed before the start of this season, packed a small number of peppers the week of Jan. 20, Lane said. As the season transitions from Thermal to Mexico in the coming weeks, he said the new line should see extensive action.