Family business Northwest Onion in western Oregon was looking to invest in a new packing solution but ended up opting for a whole new topping, grading, and packing line.
The Bennett family behind Northwest Onion is made up of Greg Bennett and his sons, Tony and Ryan, and their families.
And Ryan Bennett explained, “We’ve been sorting and packing onions with the same line since my dad started the business, so this change is very exciting.”
The operation is currently working with a team of 30 people but hoping to size down to 10 once the new line is up and running. On top of minimizing labor costs, Northwest is looking to make a step forward in sorting, and Ryan said, “The Eqrader allows us to provide a superior product. Sending out onions that were graded electronically will give us a feeling of reassurance, as we can now guarantee high quality.’ Northwest Onion will be the first company switching to electronic grading in their area, giving them a head start on their competitors.
Northwest Onion has been a point of reference for onions in the Willamette Valley in western Oregon since 1985 when Greg Bennett started the company. Since then the family business has become one of the largest onion shippers in the area, packing and shipping produce daily to customers around the world, mostly in the U.S. and Asia.
Recently, after business the same way for almost 40 years, Northwest Onion decided it was ready for something new – the Eqrader.
“It’s hard to find quality labor and with rates continuing to climb, we decided to move away from labor and invest in automated technology,” Ryan said.
Initially, the family business just wanted to invest in a new packing line, but when the Bennetts started talking to Eqraft, they opted for an Eqrader and topper as well.
“We realized there’s no such thing as easing into automation. We needed to make a big step forward and it needed to be drastic,” Ryan noted.
After having assessed several other suppliers, the family company decided that Eqraft was the right fit.
“I’ve heard good stories about Eqraft, and they seem to be a solid company with great quality of equipment and a lot of engineering expertise,” Ryan continued, “Another advantage was that they could offer us a package deal. Eqraft helps us out with where we feed the line to where we load the truck. As opposed to being in touch with several companies for each part of the process, that sounded very appealing to us.”
The new line is quite an investment, but Ryan said it’s going to make all the difference. “Once we put the numbers on paper and saw the return of investment, everybody was on board.”
Northwest Onion’s new line, which is currently in the process of being installed, will consist of an onion topper, an Eqrader, and several packing machines. To date, the topper and Baxmatic are already up and running with good results.
“After that, we’ll install the Eqrader, which will probably start running next summer,” said Nico Bredenhoff, project manager at Eqraft. Like Northwest Onion, he’s very pleased with the new collaboration.
“They’re truly a family company,” Nico continued. “They’re very welcoming people, and me and my colleagues were received most warmly. We had lunch together every day. It’s a very nice and mutual collaboration.”
Read the full Eqraft story at: https://www.eqraft.com/news/northwest-onion-opts-for-eqrader and for Eqraft’s contact information, go to: Eqraft
If you would like to learn more about Northwest Onion Company go to: Crown Classic NW Onion Company Brooks Oregon | Onion Grower (northwestonion.com)