(June 15) Index Fresh Inc., Bloomington, Calif., has moved into a new refrigerated facility, marking the end of an 18-month expansion project.

Index Fresh, a grower-owned packer and shipper of avocados and asian pears, increased its total indoor capacity by 62%, according to a company news release. The shipper’s packing and storing capacity increased four-fold. Included in the expansion are six new coolers tall enough to stack three pallets in three tiers of push back racks.

Dana Thomas, president of Index Fresh, said the new facility could handle 1,100 pallets, while the old coolers held fewer than 400.

Sarah Crum, Index Fresh operations coordinator, said the new system had other benefits.

“The new ones have much more sophisticated temperature-control devices,” she said.

In addition, the new facility featured improved insulation and compressors, Thomas said.

The company also added outdoor storage and parking, and re-fitted ripening rooms will double ripening possibilities.

The completion of the ripening rooms and coolers marked the completion of the three-phase project. The final phase also involved enlargement of pre-cooler facilities.

The job began last year, when an improved packing and bagging line was installed. Additionally, bin-cleaning equipment helped make the facility more sanitary, Thomas said.

Crum said the project, which began in October 2002, reached completion in April, and Index Fresh was already making use of the new coolers and equipment.

The final phase — new refrigeration units and ripening rooms — had been under construction since November, Crum said.