Compaq sorter coming online for CMIWENATCHEE, Wash. — A new optical cherry sorter at Columbia Fruit Packers should provide new levels of consistency in red cherry packs for Colombia Marketing International LLC.

With construction ongoing in late April, Bob Mast, president of CMI, said a new 36-lane optical sorting system engineered by Compaq will be ready to go by the start of the season.

Operations will begin for Northwest red cherries in early June.

Mast said CMI will typically account for 10% of the Northwest cherry harvest. Of its total volume, the rainier variety should account for about 10% of CMI packout, he said.

Other cherry packing facilities for CMI include organic and conventional lines at McDougall and Sons, a conventional cherry line at Yakima-based Highland Fruit Growers, and Double Diamond Fruit’s organic packing facility in Quincy.

“With the size of the crop last year, we could see close to double the production this year, and we’ve tooled for the capacity to do that,” he said.

The 36-lane sizer will have good capacity to handle expanded cherry volume, he said.

“You can singluate down to one cherry, and then the computer can determine things like firmness and color. The beauty of the new systems are that they can really size out cherries much better than ever before,” he said.

The system enables precise color and size sorting, which is helpful for domestic and export sales.

CMI researched optical sorters in California before making the call on the Compaq, he said. Making sure the technology is fine-tuned is critical, Mast said.

In order to make sure the machine is ready to go, he said CMI was hauling some California cherries to Washington to run through the line before harvest begins.