When you are the second biggest grower of bananas and avocados in the country, and harvest for both comes crashing in on you at much the same time, you need a good packing shed. A big one. That was the critical challenge facing Howe Farming Enterprises at a time when it had seriously outgrown its existing facilities.
Now a second generation operation, what started as a farm based on a soldier’s settlement loan is today an enterprise that operates across 15 properties located about an hour out of Cairns and employs 500 staff.
The continuing expansion has had its downside – the equipment, storage and packing has not been able to keep pace with a business that has gone from strength to strength.
Much of the packing equipment for avocados was in its prime 18 years ago, the main packing area was not insulated making it hot and dusty for staff, and cool room capacity simply couldn’t take the volume.
The result was multi-handling over various sites and increased spoilage, adding to the rejected fruit that doesn’t meet supermarket specification.
“We needed a shed that had the capacity to accommodate new equipment, increased cool room space and ripening facilities as well as allow for us to venture into production of banana powder, for the natural sweetener market to use the rejected fruit.
“There simply isn’t a shed that big in the region.”
By chance, Entegra Signature Structures was in the region attending a Far North Queensland Field Day. One conversation led to another and resulted in Design Consultant Greg McCalman visiting Howe Farming Enterprises and then working with the business to create the ideal shed solution.
The end result was a clear span shed with a ridge vent, 120 metres long and 56 metres wide, with one central post per truss.
“The lack of internal posts means the avocado grading equipment would be accommodated easily,” said Greg. “It’s now one of the biggest sheds in the region and complies with all the necessary cyclone ratings. The team at Howe’s went one step further and included a curved roof, for aesthetic appeal.”
The final result is a shed that has trebled capacity for avocados and doubled for bananas, and is fully contained on one site, 100 metres from the farm – the heart of the operation. Cool storage is currently running at about 50 per cent capacity, allowing the business to future-proof for further growth.
“The equipment for the avocados operates about three times faster than the old line we had, so already we are seeing increased efficiencies there and it is a lot safer to operate,” said Alexander.