Monthly Archives: October 2016

Florida Growers Expect regular fall volumes on most vegetables

IMMOKALEE, Fla. — Escaping serious damage from Hurricane Matthew, Florida’s grower-shippers expect the fall to bring typical crops on most commodities.

Those normal volumes, however, may follow some rain-caused yield losses during the early part of the deal, grower-shippers report.

Heavy rains from September and October storms and Hurricane Matthew, which threatened Florida’s East Coast in early October, are expected to affect harvesting of early crops, particularly green beans, said Brian Rayfield, vice president of business development and marketing for J&J Family of Farms Inc. in Loxahatchee.

Beans should be in tight supplies from the early November start until December, when volume is expected to return, he said.

In late October, J&J began harvesting squash and small amounts of cucumbers.

On Nov. 7, the grower-shipper expects to begin harvesting bell peppers and in mid-November, eggplant.

December and later plantings, however, look well, Rayfield said.

Despite the big rains, plantings have gone well and the growing season has been favorable.

“The weather has been good since Hurricane Matthew,” Rayfield said in late October. “The plants are growing well. We think they will grow out of that stress. The younger plants that were scheduled to harvest around or just after Thanksgiving look excellent. While we will get off to a little of an unpredictable start for the first few weeks of November, we will be just fine.”

Rayfield said he expects a typical overlap between south Georgia production and the start of Florida’s harvest.

In late October, Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M was harvesting bell peppers, cucumbers and squash in north Florida at Branford and Live Oak.

In early November, the grower-shipper expects to transition to central Florida and to south Florida by the middle of the month.

In November, L&M intends to be harvesting southern vegetables from four growing regions and plans to harvest in Georgia as late into November as weather permits, said Adam Lytch, operations manager.

“With a planned overlap between growing regions, we won’t have any issues during the transition,” he said in late October. “This fall looks good. The crops look nice.”

Quality of the bell peppers, cucumbers, squash and eggplant look favorable, Lytch said.

In late October, Steve Veneziano, director of operations for Oakes Farms Inc., toured fields.

“The season is looking well and everything’s fantastic,” he said Oct. 24. “Growing season quality has been great. The fall should bring heavy volume. Supplies should be good and it should be a good crop for everyone. We are excited to be ramping up.”

Brian Arrigo, president of Southern Corporate Packers Inc., said the state should see increased volume on bell peppers, squash and green beans.

“That could make for a very good year for promotions throughout the season,” he said in late October. “In the Immokalee area, our crops look beautiful.”

The crops remain on-schedule and Calvert Cullen, president of Cheriton, Va.-based Northampton Growers Produce Sales Inc., which grows and ships throughout the East Coast, said he doesn’t anticipate any early season problems for Florida production.

“The crops look well,” he said in late October. “Buyers should expect good supplies.”

In late October, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported these prices:

Bell peppers: 1-1/9-bushel cartons of jumbos and extra larges from Georgia sold for $6.35-8.85.

Cucumbers: 1 1/9 bushel cartons of waxed medium cucumbers from central and south Florida: $14.35 for mediums with cartons of 24s for $7.35.

Squash: From Georgia: 1/2 bushel cartons of zucchini small $6.35-6.85, medium, $4.35-4.85; yellow straightneck small, $8.35-10.85, medium, $6.35-8.85.

Story by: The Packer

First Ever Self-Driving Shipment Delivered!

In the wee hours of Thursday morning, 51,744 cans of Budweiser received an escort worthy of a president.

Otto, a startup Uber bought this summer, used one of its autonomous trucks to complete a 120-mile trek in Colorado, which the companies are calling the first commercial delivery using a self-driving truck.

The truck cruised down Interstate 25 with an empty driver’s seat. The human who piloted the truck from Anheuser-Busch to the highway shifted to the back of the cab until the truck exited the highway.

Before the trip even began, two tow trucks drove the route to make sure no vehicles were parked on the highway.

The driverless tractor-trailer was sandwiched between four Colorado state patrol cars and three vehicles from Otto. In one patrol car sat the executive director of Colorado’s department of transportation, Shailen Bhatt.

The state had overcome its reservations about the trip after Otto repeatedly drove the route autonomously with a human behind the wheel, who never had to intervene.

“This is a big deal. Transportation is being transformed by technology,” Bhatt told CNNMoney. “For me, it comes back to this: Technology can help us save lives.”

The test was months in the making. This spring, Anheuser-Busch (AHBIF), which makes Budweiser, reached out to Otto, then a highly regarded self-driving truck startup. The brewer was interested in how self-driving trucks could help its operation. Each year, its beer travels 450 million miles on U.S. roads.

“We’re eager to begin to scale this,” said James Sembrot, senior director of logistics strategy at Anheuser-Busch. “I see a future where this technology becomes ubiquitous, it becomes similar to automatic transmission or cruise control.”

Otto and Anheuser-Busch did not pinpoint when they see the technology being used regularly and without police convoys. They’ll need to receive regulatory approval too. In Colorado, it’s a gray area, according to Bhatt.

Both pointed to autonomous technology as a way to improve road safety and make transportation more sustainable. They anticipate self-driving trucks will use fuel more efficiently than humans, because they will drive the speed limit and anticipate looming traffic jams rather than slamming on their brakes.

Some experts have warned that autonomous trucks will lead to mass unemployment for truck drivers.

Lior Ron, Otto’s cofounder, sees drivers and autonomous trucks working in harmony. The human will become a copilot, taking breaks while the truck drives. Ultimately, Ron said, the truck will be more productive for more hours of the day.

For Bhatt, self-driving trucks are also a promising way to limit congestion.

“If we work to perfect technology, we can shift a lot of these freight hauls to the dead of night and take advantage of our Interstate system when it’s underused,” he said.

Bhatt said the successful delivery wasn’t the only productive part of the trip. Colorado state patrol encountered and apprehended a drunk driver en route.

Story By: CNN

Florida Brings Its Finest To The World Stage

The Fresh From Florida pavilion did an exceptional job representing Florida’s agricultural businesses at the 67th annual Produce Marketing Association’s (PMA) Fresh Summit this past weekend.

With a new change in booth layout, the pavilion allowed for unity of the Florida companies on the expo show floor. It was pretty easy to spot the Florida section amidst the 12,000 exhibiting companies at the Fresh Summit. All that one had to do was simply look up and follow the giant “Fresh From Florida” banner that towered over the expo hall.

dsc_0005The booths were set up in an oscillating pattern and had a “southern flair” feeling with a wood-paneling theme. On one end of the pavilion, attendees could watch Fresh From Florida chef Justin Timineri glide across a raised kitchen while cooking up delicious hors d’oeuvres for all of the expo guests. On the other end of the pavilion, attendees could make a “pit stop” at the Fresh From Florida racecar corner. On the first day of the expo, guests had a unique opportunity to meet and greet Richard Petty (“The King”), who posed for pictures and signed autographs. The Richard Petty Motorsports partnership with Fresh From Florida provided guests with a great experience to see the Fresh From Florida racecar up close and personal.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said that Florida did an excellent job representing itself, especially at being the host state for this PMA convention and expo. Putnam was pleased with the turnout in the Fresh From Florida pavilion and was happy to see that the affordability that Fresh From Florida offered to be featured in the pavilion provided a lot of Florida companies with the opportunity to attend this large expo. Putnam also expressed pleasure at seeing very decent-sized, neighboring booths that have branched out to promote their businesses.

Story From: VSCNews

Late start marks Florida Grapefruit Season

VERO BEACH, Fla. — Heavy fall rains as well as additional rain from Hurricane Matthew have delayed the start of Florida grapefruit harvesting.The deal is also expected to produce smaller-sized grapefruit, according to field reports.In mid-October, constant rain kept grower-shippers in the Indian River citrus growing region from starting harvesting. Usually, grapefruit harvesting starts in early October.This year, however, growers were looking to begin harvesting in mid-October.

IMG Citrus Inc. began harvesting small volumes of grapefruit on Oct. 15.It planned to pack its first fruit around Oct. 20, said Matt Kastensmidt, domestic sales manager.“It’s very wet,” he said in mid-October. “We’ve had all this rain then the hurricane. It’s been a confluence of events.” The harvest was also delayed because growers wanted to wait to see if any damage manifested itself from Hurricane Matthew, which rolled along the Treasure Coast on Oct. 6 and drenched Fort Pierce and Vero Beach groves, Kastensmidt said. The hurricane soaked the groves with about seven inches of rain, he said. “So far, what we’re seeing in the field looks really good,” Kastensmidt said Oct. 17. “Sizings are trending small, but as far as exterior appearance and quality, I think we will have a really good year.”

If the crop sustains wind damage, it should be minimal, he said.By avoiding any significant hurricane damage, Florida’s East Coast citrus growing region dodged a bullet, Kastensmidt said.While Vero Beach sustained 70 mph-80 mph winds, wind speeds hit 50 mph-60 mph in the groves, he said.Greene River Marketing Inc. is beginning harvesting grapefruit in some areas in mid-October.Fruit not reaching state maturity requirements also helped delay harvesting, said Pat Rodgers, president.

Grapefruit this season should peak on the smaller sizes, in the 40s and 48s but produce high brix levels, he said. Rodgers reported brix levels of 9.5-10, which should make for a flavorful start, he said.“The fruit in general is smaller but we will have a fair number of areas with decent-sized fruit,” he said in mid-October. “We will have decent volume once harvesting starts.”

In central Florida, members of the Dundee Citrus Growers Association began harvesting navels in mid-October. As harvesting moves into November, Al Finch, president of Florida Classic Growers, Dundee’s marketing arm, said he anticipates good sizings for promotions with 4- and 8-pound bags. “All the citrus varieties we will harvest so far look great,” Finch said in mid-October. “Our buyers and consumers should be very pleased with the crop this season. We look for the season to bring good supplies and high quality.”

In mid-October, Dundee was harvesting early season fallglo tangerines. Finch said he expects to transition to the sunburst variety in early November. The sunburst crop will be smaller this year. Movement is expected to end in early December, earlier than the typical late December finish before honey tangerines usually begin harvesting in early January, Finch said. Juice oranges, the ones used for fresh-squeezed orange juice, are expected to begin harvesting Oct. 24, Finch said. Sizes should peak on 100s and 125s, he said.

Story by : Thepacker

Wal-Mart’s CIO on the Retailer’s Push Into Online Grocery Shopping

The move to digital business ripping across U.S. industry affects no company more than Wal-Mart Stores Inc. WMT -0.59 %

The world’s biggest corporation in January combined its corporate information-technology and e-commerce-systems groups into a single unit called Walmart Technology, hoping to move faster to build technology to blend physical and online shopping. The company spends more than $10 billion a year on IT and in August signed a $3.3 billion deal to jump-start e-commerce growth by buying web retailer Inc.

Karenann Terrell, Wal-Mart’s chief information officer, works in the center of the tumult—with Jeremy King, chief technology officer of global e-commerce—directing projects such as mobile apps, store checkout upgrades and supply-chain revamps.

Wal-Mart gets more than half its U.S. revenue from food and groceries, an area that has been slow to shift online. But with overall sales weak—a revenue drop in fiscal 2016 and a lowered forecast for the current year—Wal-Mart plans to restore growth in part by reinventing its online grocery business, allowing customers to place orders online and pick them up in stores.

In an interview, Ms. Terrell discusses how Wal-Mart is reorganizing stores to fulfill online orders and analyzing the clicks customers make as they shop for things like cantaloupe and cat food. Edited excerpts follow.

WSJ: What are you doing in technology to expand the online grocery business?

MS. TERRELL: During the pilot phase, we had the opportunity to look at algorithms for picking items from shelves in the store. What is the best way for store employees [fulfilling online orders] to pick from shelves, and what are the different replenishment requirements so that we serve both the store and online grocery business. We had a lot of test-and-learn cycles around that. We have a website that is easy to navigate and we have the most efficient operations in the store. Now it is for us to take that highly available, mobile experience that the customer interacts with to place orders and make it more intelligent as we scale into the rest of the chain. Technology underpins all of that.

WSJ: What did you learn about customer behavior from pilot projects in Denver and other areas?

MS. TERRELL: The expectations for the customer are different than for somebody parking their car and walking in and browsing. Making the online-to-store experience easy and seamless when they come to the store, sign in through the kiosk and pick up is critical. We also have a model for what kind of replenishment settings for fresh fruit and vegetables would be necessary in the first week of online shopping, and then the fifth week, the 10th week and so on. That is gold in order for us to continue to run smooth operations in the store as we add in grocery home shopping. Online customers shop more frequently when they can buy groceries as well as merchandise. We’re observing every click and movement in the grocery website.

WSJ: What are you surprised to see in all that data?

MS. TERRELL: As we’ve been watching the behavior of customers who shop in the store, and then we watch the behavior of how customers shop through grocery home shopping, We’ve observed that online customers have a very, very high level of satisfaction—above 90%—while for those shopping in the store, it isn’t nearly at that high level. We wanted to dig underneath and find out why. The convenience of online ordering, coupled with the special treatment online customers get when they come in person to pick up their orders, leads to a more satisfying experience. We’ve hired dedicated personal shoppers to pick these online grocery orders for customers. They see these customers regularly and know their preferences and begin to know them personally. That has been a huge learning for us in how we will manage stores. One associate wrote a Happy Mother’s Day card to a single mom who visits every week and has a son with Down syndrome.

WSJ: Where do you see new technology improving your grocery business?

MS. TERRELL: I’m so fascinated with the Internet of Things. It could make a huge difference operationally and with the improvement of the experience for customers.

WSJ: How? Tracking inventory?

MS. TERRELL: It’s real-time data about goods on the shelf at the time that the customer shops. On-shelf availability means what the customer wants is fully available to them. They don’t say, “I wanted Crest Pro Health toothpaste but they were out.” The Internet of Things is going to rock the world of operational effectiveness.

WSJ: Many in technology are concerned about talent shortages and the lack of women working in the field. Are you?

MS. TERRELL: Talent and how and where you use people in your business is one of the most central topics in technology today. We have got to get 50% of the human population represented in technology. Not at 20%, not 25%. But closer to 50. The C-suite has to care. It’s incredibly important to the strategy of Wal-Mart, and it’s a big part of who I am.

WSJ: What it the breakdown by gender in Walmart Technology?

MS. TERRELL: We don’t talk about that publicly. Industrywide, it just isn’t good enough. Leadership cannot have excuses for why it isn’t. We need to have accountability to make it better. Even if it’s incremental and even if we have to just sustain that improvement incrementally over time, we have to make progress.

Story From: Wall Street Journal

Big Retail Marketing Changes Coming To Florida Produce Industry

The next three decades will bring big societal changes that will affect produce marketing and demand.

That’s what grower-shippers attending the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association’s Sept. 28-29 convention learned.

During a Sept. 28 luncheon, Bryan Silbermann, CEO of the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association, gave an overview on the state of the U.S. produce industry and how those changes will affect retailers and consumers.

By the year 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities.

That makes for a challenge to prepare to meet global trends, and the produce industry will need to claim a proportion of fresh food demand, which will be daunting and exciting, Silbermann said.

As people shift more to urban environments, the question is where they will purchase their food.

Stores and online deliveries from operators including Amazon and FreshDirect will supply consumers as well as new retail formats, Silbermann said.

“More retailers are adjusting their footprints in cities to fit into smaller buildings, which also creates opportunities I would suggest for niche players on the production side,” he said. “What you’re seeing is a real explosion of independent retailers in urban areas. People with smaller stores are finding they’re not going to compete against a Wal-Mart supercenter in the suburbs, but they can sure do an effective job in the middle of the city where they can appeal to the locals.”

Foodservice is also changing.

Data from Chicago-based Technomic Inc. research firm predicts the meal kit service sector of the market will grow to $3 million to $5 million over the next decade based on current adoption rates.

“The good news is fresh produce a significant part of this offering,” Silbermann said. “One of the selling points is consumers will have the exact the right amount of product to prepare for what could be a complex recipe. It’s small amounts, which reduces food waste, which is increasingly important to millennials.”

In a Sept. 29 session on the 2016 congressional elections, Kam Quarles, director of legislative affairs for the McDermott Will & Emery law firm, Washington, D.C., said he expects Hillary Clinton to change her position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

“If Clinton becomes president, she will flip on TPP pretty rapidly,” he said. “Her flip on it is directly related to (Bernie) Sanders’ challenge. It will be something they try to figure out to cobble together. I am not sure where a Trump administration would be on the TPP.”

During a Sept. 29 awards luncheon, FFVA leaders presented Michael Spinazzola, president and chief operating officer of San Diego-based Diversified Restaurant Systems Inc., which buys fresh produce for Subway, its Customer of the Year award.

About 410 people attended the event, compared to about 434 last year.

“We have seen significant growth in this convention over the last five years,” said Mike Stuart, FFVA president. “Attendance has increased by 40% over the last five years. This is remarkable considering other agriculture organizations around the country are seeing declines.”

“They always put on a great event with some high profile education,” said Robert Morrissey, executive director of the Plant City-based National Watermelon Association.

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