The Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology on the Fresno State campus, Fresno, Calif., unveiled a state-of-the-art citrus packing line that was donated by Bee Sweet Citrus, Fowler, Calif.

The $600,000 packing line can inspect, clean, wash, dry, sort, box, label and seal fruit harvested from the 1,000-acre campus farm.

Located in the Bee Sweet Citrus Laboratory in the Grosse Industrial Technology Building, the equipment will provide industrial technology, food science and plant science students with hands-on instruction for mechanical systems and industrial maintenance as they apply to food processing and safety.

“The citrus industry continues to invest in new technologies, advanced automation, innovative research and modern infrastructure to compete in the world market,” says Jim Marderosian, founder and president of Bee Sweet Citrus. “Bee Sweet Citrus is proud to invest in Fresno State and the Jordan College, so their students are prepared to meet the challenges of the modern agricultural industry.”

The packing line is composed of equipment from six specialized area equipment manufacturers, including Aweta Americas, Fresno, Calif.; Decco U.S. Postharvest, Monrovia, Calif.; Intelligrated, Cincinnati; Mid Valley Packaging and Supply, Fowler, Calif.; Valley Automation Solutions, Exeter, Calif.; and Valley PackLine Solutions, Reedley, Calif. J.M. Equipment Co., Manteca, Calif., also provided forklifts that were used in the delivery and construction process.

Sections of the equipment can process up to 16 oranges, mandarins, grapefruit, lemons, nectarines, peaches or pomegranates per second, and will utilize fruit that is grown on the 1,000-acre campus farm.

The harvested fruit is first loaded onto a bed of moving metal rollers that remove debris before being inspected in an ultraviolet fluorescence (black light) unit for peel quality and potential decay. After the fruit is cleaned, washed and dried, conveyor rollers transport it inside the building where a near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) scanner and cameras analyze the fruit, which is then graded and sorted based on quality, size and weight. The line can process approximately 16 pieces of fruit per second, which is then distributed among nine holding bins and boxed, labeled and sealed along a conveyor system.

“We are so appreciative of this gift and all of the resources that Jim and Bee Sweet Citrus have extended to us, from hosting classes at his facility to speaking to our students on campus and our awards banquet,” says Dr. Athanasios Alexandrou, chair of the industrial technology department. “This equipment will be immediately utilized by a full class excited to learn about this technology. Being able to work with other departments and colleges on campus makes this a gift that will better prepare Fresno State students for food safety and agricultural system management careers far into the future.”

Bee Sweet Citrus grows, packs and ships over 20 varieties of citrus.