A Fresh Perspective in Packaging Protection

EuroFresh Farms combines automation with VBoard® to ensure supply chain quality.

When you grow and ship 150 million pounds of your own premium vine-ripened tomatoes a year to some of the largest retail customers in America, packaging protection is serious business.

For EuroFresh Farms, integrity in product and packaging go hand in hand. And Laminations VBoard applied by an automated strapping machine, is helping to ensure that integrity.

Founded in 1990 in Pennsylvania, EuroFresh Farms began operating in 1992 in Wilcox, Arizona, where today it grows and picks tomatoes year-round in a 250-acre complex of greenhouses.

Securing the safe delivery of 12 million cases of tomatoes a year requires the very best in packaging protection, says Gary Anderson, Laminations Southwest account manager. “If the first pallet on the truck shows some damaged product, the customer will discount or penalize the whole truckload,” Anderson says. Laminations VBoard makes certain that doesn’t happen.

When EuroFresh first started, netting was used to unitize and stabilize pallet loads, says General Packhouse Manager Kees Rodenburg. While netting was effective, major customers didn’t like the disposal problems created once the netting was cut away from the pallets.

Eight years ago, EuroFresh switched from the use of netting to Laminations VBoard, which was held in place and strapped to pallet loads manually.

On a trip to Europe, Rodenburg saw another tomato grower using a machine that integrated an automatic palletizer with a strapping machine that applied and held in place corner protection pieces. Since October 2005, EuroFresh Farms has been using the machine in Arizona and now has three of them operating in its packhouses.

After stacking cases of tomatoes on a pallet, the machine rolls the pallet to a strapping station where its suction cups grab four VBoards, place them on the corners and hold them in place while the machine applies horizontal straps around the pallet, moving from bottom to top.

Rodenburg says the use of VBoard with the automated strapping operation has created labor savings and provided consistent integrity in the packaging. The machine is not only faster than manual strapping but provides a more uniform tension in strapping than can be achieved by hand, he says.

The unique qualities of Laminations VBoard make it much more reliable and efficient to use with the automatic strapping operation than edge protection products that are more porous, Anderson says.

“Products with a kraft top sheet, for example, tend to let the air be sucked through the pores of the paper by the suction cups that pick up and place the edge protection pieces. The result is that products with kraft or other top sheets occasionally fall or drop off the suction cups,” Anderson says.

“Laminations uses a white clay-coated top sheet on its VBoard that keeps air from getting sucked through by the suction cups. The result is a firmer grip by the cups and an automation process that is highly reliable,” Anderson says.

Rodenburg says he likes the labor savings and the consistent strapping tension delivered by the automated process. He particularly likes the fact that pallet loads are highly likely to arrive in pristine condition.

“Laminations VBoard not only works extremely well with our strapping machines but plays a big part in ensuring that our tomatoes arrive at their final destination in the same perfect condition as when we pack them,” Rodenburg says. “Our operation, like our tomatoes, has a reputation for the highest quality, from start to finish. Laminations has been a good partner in helping us maintain that quality.”

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