(Oct. 18) RIO RICO, Ariz. — Grower-shipper SunFed Produce Inc. plans to triple production of its Bambino miniature watermelon in the next year.

The company will grow the personal-sized, seedless melon in nine growing regions in California, Mexico and Central America, said Danny Mandel, director of strategic development and partner with Jerry Havel, director of marketing.

Mandel declined to give specific volume and acreage figures for the Bambino expansion.

Introduced in small volumes in January, SunFed has increased its acreage for the Bambino and plans to continue with progressive volume increases. Mandel declined to release figures.

“In our first full year of production, we put a lot of energy into identifying areas where the Bambino demonstrated optimized production and quality and flavor characteristics,” he said. “Now that we’ve identified that, we can go ahead and put our foot more to the accelerator.”

Seminis Vegetable Seeds, Oxnard, Calif., licenses the field-grown product to two U.S. growers, SunFed and Immokalee, Fla.-based Six L’s Packing Co. Inc., and one Australian company, Kapiris Bros.

Last year marked the launch of the 5- to 6-pound melon, said Gary Koppenjan, corporate communications manager for Seminis. Koppenjan said the product, with a sweeter taste and thinner rind, was a result of 10 years of plant breeding.

“In the last two years, we’ve seen a huge increase in the market for both Bambino and mini watermelons in general,” he said.

Mandel said SunFed, the exclusive Bambino grower west of the Mississippi and throughout Mexico, has experienced strong demand for the melon.