The Salinas Valley has long been home to innovation in the agricultural industry – from its claim to fame as the first region to successfully ship lettuce on ice across the country (iceberg lettuce), to the invention of bagged salad, to now integrating a host of technologies ranging from data sensors to blockchain into the farm. Check out these three family farms that have been thriving – and innovating – in the Salinas Valley for generations.
D’Arrigo California was founded in 1920 by brothers Stefano and Andrea D’Arrigo, who emigrated from Messina, Sicily. Packing under the iconic pink Andy Boy label since 1927, the company is widely credited with many innovations including the development of the commercial broccoli business in the United States.
Currently, the third generation of D’Arrigo family members head their West Coast operations. In 2016, the company installed 7,200 solar panels on 16 acres in Salinas, CA that generates 2.2 megawatts (MW) of power that offsets the cost of their 152,000 sq. ft. cooling and loading facility. In 2018, they installed 3,600 solar panels on 8 acres in Gonzales, CA that generates 1.1 MW of energy to pump water from their wells to their fields. In 2019, D’Arrigo California committed another 15 acres with 7,200 solar panels in Salinas, CA that will come online this summer. This new solar power phase will include two Tesla batteries to minimize peak usage demand charges Their stellar efforts to harvest the sun’s power will offset their cooling and loading facility costs by 87% at their headquarters. D’Arrigo California will be generating a total of 5.5 MW of energy making them the largest customer-owned net metered solar power project in Monterey County.
The Nunes Company
Tom Nunes Sr. first set down roots in the Salinas Valley in the 1930s. The Nunes Company was founded in 1976 as a private, family owned vertically integrated grower/shipper of the “Foxy” brand of vegetables, and since then has been pioneering innovations from produce to labor housing. Brothers Bob and Tom Nunes pioneered the practice of film-wrapping lettuce in plastic to ensure freshness. Third and fourth generation Nunes family members are at the helm today, ensuring that a tradition in innovation and pride in stewardship of the land is carried out at every level of the business.
Since 2005, the company has been transitioning its land into organic production. As of 2019, more than 25 percent of their total crop output will be grown organically with more land transitioning each year. Additionally, the Nunes Company works to reduce its overall impact by utilizing drip irrigation and water quality monitoring programs. The company has also implemented design modifications to reduce the weight of its packaging materials by approximately three-quarters of a million pounds per year, which has reduced solid waste by 95 percent.
Tanimura & Antle
Tanimura & Antle is one of the largest independent lettuce and vegetable growers in the United States. First established in 1982, Tanimura & Antle family members have been farming for a combined 150 years. In 2015, Tanimura & Antle’s vice president, Brian Antle, accepted the Forbes Ag Innovation Award for the introduction of Plant Tape, an automated transplanting system that maximizes efficiency in seed sowing, nursery growing and transplanting in the field. Check out our video featuring the technology here.
More recently, Tanimura & Antle was one of the first adopters of an automated weeding machine called the Robovator, that uses vision engineering and mechanical knives to weed and clean fields. The machine is so sophisticated that it distinguishes between crops and weeds and uses small knives to cut weeds while leaving the plants unharmed.
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