(June 16) Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash., upgraded three of its cherry packing facilities in preparation for the 2004 season.

The centerpiece of the overhaul was the installation of a packing line at the company’s plant in Chelan Falls, Wash. The plant packs Stemilt’s organic cherries.

Hans van Someren Gréve, Stemilt general manager, said the line, which was moved from one of Stemilt’s southern Washington locations, is now closer to more orchards and could be used for more of the season. Stemilt updated the old line with automated box fillers and fruit resizing equipment while installing it at Chelan Falls.

The company added resizers to its red cherry line at the Miller Street location in Wenatchee, as well. This machinery assured the correct size of fruit was packed in each box, van Someren Gréve said.

Seeking to expand its rainier cherry line, the grower-shipper further bolstered its Miller Street facility by adding two sorting tables, semi-automatic bag fillers, and fully automated clamshell fillers.

With these upgrades, Stemilt expects to put out 11,000 packs of rainier cherries per day. The company packed 7,500 daily in 2003 and 3,500 in 2002. Stemilt expected to ship 2,250 tons of rainiers this season.

The company also was in the process of testing two types of optical sizers, which measure fruit size with digital images, at its Olds Station plant in Wenatchee, van Someren Gréve said.