Robert Bell, a seasoned onion professional from Western Onion in California, shares his experiences and insights on Kalfresh’s journey to mechanize onion harvesting.
In an exciting cross-continental collaboration, Kalfresh, the Australian agribusiness specializing in fresh vegetable production, is making strides in mechanized onion harvesting with the invaluable insights of Robert Bell, a field operations manager at Western Onion in Camarillo, California.
“I first met Kalfresh CEO Richard Gorman in the summer of 2016 when he came to see how Western Onion mechanically harvested onions,” Robert Bell shared. “He returned in April of this year with several key personnel to revisit, see, and learn how we mechanically harvest and pack short-day onions and see if it was feasible for them to get away from hand harvest.”
The partnership between Kalfresh and Bell has been underpinned by a shared challenge: both regions experience hot, wet, and humid conditions, making manual onion harvesting a challenging endeavor. To confront this shared obstacle, the collaboration took an extensive tour across the United States, commencing in South Texas and extending through the Imperial Valley, and then further north through California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.
During this journey, Kalfresh and Robert Bell had the opportunity to connect with several accomplished growers who graciously shared their insights on harvesting, packing, and storage of onions. The exchange of knowledge has proven pivotal in enhancing Kalfresh’s understanding of onion farming processes.
Kalfresh’s bold endeavor to establish themselves as year-round onion suppliers in Queensland has led to strategic partnerships with growers in New South Wales and Tasmania, regions capable of cultivating the long-day onions not feasible in Queensland’s climate. The next phase of their development includes the introduction of a new packing shed, storage facilities, and state-of-the-art harvest equipment, pending the success of this season’s proof-of-concept attempt.
Bell noted, “They face many of the same issues we deal with in regard to labor, ‘short and expensive,’ and this was the driving factor to either figure out how to successfully harvest and pack onions mechanically or stop growing them.”
Kalfresh generously shared images of their onion harvesting progress with Robert Bell. Bell commented, “You can observe that in-field curing and a good whitewashing with surround seems to be working well. Of course, how they pack and arrive will tell the tale.”
Acknowledging that the market is accustomed to hand-clipped onions, Bell expressed confidence in Kalfresh’s abilities. “They are outstanding growers and packers, and I wish them well.”
The collaboration between Kalfresh and Robert Bell highlights the potential of global knowledge exchange in revolutionizing the onion farming industry, promising a brighter future for onion production in Australia.
More information about Kafresh can be found at: https://www.kalfresh.com.au
To learn more about Western Onion in Camarillo, CA to: www.westernonion.com