Hungenberg Produce Inc. started its carrot season in Colorado July 15 after a busy winter and spring spent upgrading its machinery and shipping facility.

“We’ve got everybody switched over pretty much from California,” Jordan Hungenberg, salesman and food safety director, said July 21. “The crop looks good and we’ve been fortunate to avoid some of the bad storms.”

The company plans to go through the first week of September on carrots. Cabbage cutting is also underway. It looks like there will be more of both crops.

Hungenberg Produce invests in carrot operationGreeley, Colo.-based Hungenberg Produce has boosted its carrot and cabbage plantings as well, raising their totals to about 1,200 and 500, respectively.

“We planted a couple hundred more acres of carrots and 100 more acres of cabbage than last year,” Hungenberg said. “We were able to grab a little more market share on carrots. On cellos and baby carrots, we added some contract business. We had more demand and so planted a few more acres.”

The grower-shipper does about 75% of its business on contract; the rest goes to the open market. When it’s time to rotate carrot or cabbage crops, they produce dry beans or corn.

Hungenberg Produce made the biggest of its upgrades with the acquisition of a carrot harvester from Vogel Engineering, Holton, Mich. It’s the grower’s third carrot harvester.

“It should work a little better for us, digging four rows of carrots at a time,” said Hungenberg. It’s equipped with a global positioning system.

The company harvests an average of 25 to 30 tons of carrots per acre.

In the packinghouse, new Pacmac machinery bags baby carrots, running all day during the season.

To keep the cold chain unbroken, the shipper has enclosed six docks.

“It keeps our building a lot cleaner too,” Hungenberg said. “You could say it’s part of our pest control program. Before we had to open and close doors all the time.”

“We upgraded a lot of machinery and spent quite a bit on food safety on our critical control points, temperature control and cleaning,” he said.

The hydrocooling system was redone, all in stainless steel, providing temperature control and a freshwater rinse on carrots.

The improvements were made from January to April.

“You have to put quality at the top of your list and not take any shortcuts,” he said.