Boasting the most efficient and modern mango pack house around
Disclaimer: This is a boastful and prideful post about a packing house that I truly believe in. I’m one of a few globally well-traveled industry folks with an extremely diverse make up of commodities, markets, cultures and systems. I have seen a lot of packing houses and “sheds” in my travels and none like this one. Boasting this facility and the Crespo’s is the natural outcome of my true beliefs.
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We don’t talk enough about the quality of packing houses in our business and yet this is the one place that can make or break a program, the place that usually solves and/or causes most problems in terms of product quality, food safety and compliances. Most fruits and vegetables are harvested and then brought to a packing house or shed where they are then packed into various bulk or retail packaging. These large and small sorting/packing hubs serve as the distribution outlet for the farm and/or the farmers. These facilities can be modern, elaborate, high tech, clean and simple, dirty and even bare bones covered (shaded) tables where things like fresh herbs are packed right out of the field.
Regardless of whether they are complex or simple, packing sheds always serve as a place where just picked fruits and vegetables go to get cleaned, trimmed, sorted, washed, sometimes waxed and packed. Sometimes the timing is extraordinarily quick other times it’s a long process.
As one of the most important aspects in the supply chain process, I’m surprised that people don’t talk about the packing facilities more often, let alone boast about them.
I think Crespo’s home pack house, Empaque Don Jorge is worth talking about and shining the spotlight on- even in (now outdated) video form. In terms of mangoes, there isn’t a lot out there as big, as modern and as equipped to handle large organic volumes as well as the USDA hot water treatment requirement as efficiently as this pack house can. I think many of Crespo’s customers can attest to the packing houses ability to aid in building sustainable, profitable mango programs, by providing super consistent, quality product at a reasonable price in the peak consumer demand- SUMMER.
EDJI, originally built by Roberto Crespo Fitch in the early 1970’s, went through a total modernization revamp in 2016 by Roberto’s children Malu, Roberto, Jorge, and Jose Angel, who today run the family agricultural business alongside the family matriarch, Maluz Duran Valdez (El Grupo Crespo).
The forward-thinking genes that seem to run through the Crespo family DNA, push them to continuously modernize and improve efficiencies. Its what lead Roberto Crespo Fitch into the mango business in the first place and what lead the business into the export realm. Eventually it’s what compelled the family to change over most of their conventional orchards into organic production, long before the market cared about organics.
Forward thinking is not without challenges, especially in Mexico and certainly in markets like ours and with lower priced commodities like mangoes. Change doesn’t happen instantly. There have been so many crazy obstacles along the way for the Crespo family, many of which I wish I could share; shouting out and naming names. There are still numerous obstacles (not even including the last years of COVID) , every day. But the Crespo’s move forward affected yet buoyant. The continued growth and strength of the packhouse, points directly to the success of El Grupo Crespo’s mango programs.
The packing house is located in the family’s home town of El Rosario, Sinaloa Mexico. It packs El Grupo Crespo’s Crespo Organic & RCF and Mango King brands.
The packing house was originally built by Roberto Crespo Fitch in the early 1970’s. It’s named after Roberto’s father Jorge Longinos Crespo. The facility originally packed chili peppers and has packed everything from squash, tomatoes and watermelons in addition to mangoes. It was one of the originals exporting Mexican mangoes all over the globe to France, Spain, Germany, Holland, New Zealand, USA, Canada and Japan to name just a few. Today the company packs only for the US/Canadian markets in order to optimize the process. Each country has a magnitude of different requirements, it nearly impossible to maintain top efficiencies and deliver high quality with multiple focus’ and end product specifications.
Empaque Don Jorge was always impressive beyond its time and it is now open for the 2022 season. It continues to be expanded and improved since the original and large revamp in 2016, funded in part by the family’s conversion into the DIRECT TRADE method of growing, packing, shipping and marketing mangoes; organic and conventional.
Here are this seasons fact & figures:
- 15 Hour Truck Drive to main US ports of Entry McAllen, Laredo & Nogales
- Set on a 50-acre piece of El Grupo Crespo land
- Surrounded by Crespo Organic mango orchards with over 8 different varietals: Ataulfo, Haden, Keitt, Kent, Tommy Atkins, Manila, Thai, Mallika and baby mangoes, the majority of which are all certified organic
- Packinghouse structure spans over 155,000 sq. ft
- Second largest capacity packhouse in Mexico (largest hydro thermal facility) daily shipping capacity between 16-18 truck loads or just under a million pounds
- Offering packaging services for Mexican mango export market, packing over 14 different well known CV brands
- Employs year-round workers with full and part time positions as orchard crews, office staff, food safety & compliance, pack house workers and maintenance, as well as a big crew of machinery and equipment labor
- Most of the labor comes from El Rosario and the neighboring communities of Agua Verde, Los Pozos, Matadero, Cacalaton and Villa Union, with over 4 generations of families employed and returning season after season
- A portion of the seasonal packing and picking labor from EDJII in Chiapas travels up to work at EDJI after the season ends in Chiapas
- Operates 12-hour days, 7 days a week during northern region mango season which runs approx. April- September
- USDA Regulation – fully compliant – insect-proof structure with double entry insect-proof doors on all entryways and exits
- 11 USDA supervised, stainless steel hydro-thermic tanks
- Seven cold rooms with simultaneous post-packing cooling and staging space for up to 350 high stacked pallets
- Several fully computerized stainless-steel washing and sorting lines
- 8 packing lines, with one fully dedicated certified organic line for the full-time packing of Crespo Organic, another dedicated packing line for specialty SKU’s, plus an additional and separate full-time processing area and packing line for non-hydro-thermic treated fruit destined for in bond transits to Canada
- On-site weight station
- El Grupo Crespo’s and Empaque Don Jorge’s corporate offices
- Solar powered
- A baby mango nursery for new tree staging
- A specialty mango trial orchard
- Several facilities for machinery and vehicle maintenance
- An on-site comedor (cafeteria) to feed and hydrate workers all day long
- Transportation services for local and neighboring community workforce
- A chapel
- Certified by Primus GFS, Global Gap, NOP (USDA Organic), SMETA
The efficiency and modernization bring better working conditions to the many workers whose families have worked at EDJ for almost five generations. It’s easy to forget how beneficial and safe new modern machinery is for the people who work on or around it- but it’s part of the process of modernizing, offering better actual working conditions and jobs to those that make up the system is essential. Part of forward thinking is thinking regeneratively, not just on the agricultural and soil side of the equation – but in terms of people. Offering the community, a place to make a good living for generations is a rare occurrence in our world these days.
Disclaimer. The videos ( Our Home & The Mango Packing Process) my team did a few years back are now totally outdated. And of course we also did them in Spanish, which means more work! we have the new footage and photos and should have the new videos by next season, when we also plan to launch the packhouses new website!