The Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology unveiled a state-of-the-art citrus packing line at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8 on the Fresno State campus. The packing line was donated by Bee Sweet Citrus, one of the state’s industry leaders.
Jim Marderosian, Bee Sweet Citrus founder and president, spoke at the event with Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro, Jordan College Dean Sandra Witte and others. A demonstration of the packing line showcased the equipment, valued at $600,000, which was also provided by six area manufacturers.
The packing line can inspect, clean, wash, dry, sort, box, label and seal fruit harvested from the 1,000-acre campus farm. Located in the Bee Sweet Citrus Laboratory on campus in the Grosse Industrial Technology Building, formerly room 154, the equipment will provide industrial technology, food science and plant science students with hands-on instruction for mechanical systems and industrial maintenance as they apply to food processing and safety.
It is the centerpiece of the new IT 191T “Fundamentals of Citrus Processing Line” class, taught by Dr. Athanasios Alexandrou.
“The citrus industry continues to invest in new technologies, advanced automation, innovative research and modern infrastructure to compete in the world market,” said Marderosian, a 1979 Fresno State agricultural business graduate. “Bee Sweet Citrus is proud to invest in Fresno State and the Jordan College so their students are prepared to meet the challenges of the modern agricultural industry.”
The packing line is composed of equipment from six specialized area equipment manufacturers that include Aweta Americas, Decco U.S. Postharvest, Intelligrated, Mid Valley Packing and Supply, Valley Automation Solutions and Valley PackLine Solutions. J.M. Equipment Company also provided forklifts that were used in the delivery and construction process.
Sections of the equipment can process up to 16 oranges, mandarins, grapefruit, lemons, nectarines, peaches or pomegranates per second, and will utilize fruit that is grown on the 1,000-acre campus farm.
The harvested fruit is first loaded onto a bed of moving metal rollers that remove debris before it is inspected in an ultraviolet fluorescence (black light) unit for peel quality and potential decay. After the fruit is cleaned, washed and dried, conveyor rollers transport it inside the building so a near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) scanner and cameras can analyze the fruit, which is then graded and sorted based on quality, size and weight. The line can process approximately 16 pieces of fruit per second, which is then distributed among nine holding bins and boxed, labeled and sealed along a conveyor system.
“We are so appreciative of this gift and all of the resources that Jim and Bee Sweet Citrus have extended to us, from hosting classes at his facility to speaking to our students on campus and our awards banquet,” said Dr. Athanasios Alexandrou, chair of the industrial technology department. “This equipment will be immediately utilized by a full class excited to learn about this technology. Being able to work with other departments and colleges on campus makes this a gift that will better prepare Fresno State students for food safety and agricultural system management careers far into the future.”
Bee Sweet Citrus, a grower, packer and shipper of over 20 varieties of citrus for consumers, was founded by Jim Marderosian in 1987. Located in the heart of California’s Central Valley, the family-owned and operated company is focused on innovation, sustainability and customer satisfaction.
The company’s ties to the Jordan College include a number of Fresno State alumni who work as unit managers and leaders in its production, food safety, human resources, farm and field and marketing teams. In addition, its internship program currently includes seven Fresno State students and has been re-vamped by Monique Bienvenue, Bee Sweet Citrus director of communications and a 2015 agricultural communication major.
More information on Bee Sweet Citrus is at www.beesweetcitrus.com.