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Potato Company Goes Plastic

27 Oct 2015

The food and agriculture sector has been leading the switch from wooden to plastic pallets for many decades. Now US potato grower and shipper Worley & McCullogh, based in the San Luis Valley, Colorado, is joining the move. In business for five generations, the company supplies 1.5 million hundredweights (76.2 million kilograms) of potatoes annually to retail outlets over the whole of the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

The company’s speciality is the Colorado regional russet, which is shipped from packing facilities in Monte Vista to stores all over North America. Sales and marketing of potatoes are also handled by Wada Farms Marketing of Idaho. This stock is shipped under the trade name Dole, belonging to Wada Farms, a number of private labels and a smaller number under Worley & McCullogh’s own label.

Wooden Pallet Downside

In the past, Worley & McCullogh used wooden pallets, still the most favoured packaging material for potato growers worldwide. However, although wooden pallets are cheaper per item, their real downside is that they can absorb all manner of contaminants, pathogens and bacteria. In addition, they can become infested with insects, ever though the wood may be treated.

Safety and Hygiene Features

But now the company has recognised that not only can they lower their operational and shipping costs by switching to plastic, but they improve their health and safety features and will have the ability to track shipments. The plastic pallet is usually manufactured from a single mould and does not have the sharp corners of the wooden version. It is tougher, more durable and will not splinter. Although the plastic pallet may cost twice as much as the wooden one, it can last nearly 50 times as long, cannot be infested with insects and pathogens and can be disinfected in temperatures up to 120 degrees C. The company’s overall handling costs will also fall, as a plastic pallet can be made larger but still much lighter than a wooden one and hold a larger load.

Smart Tracking System Through Supply Chain

The new pallets, together with plastic boxes that the company also intends to use, will be supplied by Intelligent Global Pooling Systems (iGPS). Aside from being lighter than their wooden counterparts, they can also be recycled. In addition, the plastic pallets have a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag embedded in them so that each shipment can be tracked throughout its whole supply chain, from grower to distributor to retail outlet. It also has the advantage of protecting the pallet itself from being lost – a major source of loss for many growers, manufacturers and shippers. These tags are also equipped with shock and temperature sensors so that the grower and shipper may be confident that the storage and transportation conditions of the goods will be met and, if not, they will be informed of any damage.

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