Pre-cooler facility helps grow fresh produce businesses
Since 2014, lifelong friends Tony Serrano, president of JAS Family Farms Organics, and Pat Coash, owner of Koppes Plants, both in Watsonville, Calif., have been sharing cooling for commodities. In doing so, they gain two seasons out of what’s typically one seasons.
JAS grows organic squash, artichokes and Brussels sprouts and sells to retailers and wholesalers throughout the United States, while Koppes is a wholesale strawberry nursery supplying commercial growers throughout the United States and Canada.
When Serrano needed to refrigerate his product, he turned to Coash, whose strawberry plants’ season is October through May, and idle in the summer when JAS harvests. Cooling in Koppes’ large refrigeration facility is provided by Jet-Ready Precoolers, manufactured by Global Cooling, Inc., Athens, Ohio.
The cooling arrangement helped JAS land Costco as a customer shortly after Serrano starting his company in 2014.
“If this cooling system is good enough to cool down product that goes into Costco and is good enough for the biggest customers, you can get your product to anyone else,” says Serrano.
Aside from Serrano and Coash’s relationship, the Jet-Ready Precooler is the reason the business partnership has worked, says Coash.
“I have known Tony for so long. It was such a seamless and easy transition,” he says. “It’s ‘Here’s the set of keys’ is how much we trust each other, which is very rare in this day and age. It’s almost like having a brother here watching the place while you’re gone.”
Coash and Serrano met when children. Coash’s uncle, the late Max Koppes, who founded the operation in 1949, would see Serrano running around the fields as a child when he sold Serrano’s father strawberry plants during the 1970s. After graduating college in 1988, Coash entered his uncle’s business and took it over after Koppes passed away in 1999.
Born to migrant workers from Mexico, Serrano came to the United States in the trunk of a red Grand
Torino when he was three years old. Raised in the fields, Serrano went to school and acted as a translator when his parents started their own strawberry growing business. There, he learned a myriad of skills, from picking strawberries and driving trucks to setting up irrigation systems. Serrano also worked 8 years in sales and marketing for Alba Organics, Salinas, Calif.
“It is a natural situation where Pat and I could work together,” says Serrano. “We work well with each other and haven’t had a disagreement on anything. Like any industry, this is a small community. Word gets around of your ethics, your personality and your mode of operation. To have someone like him know me and be able to say some good things about me goes a long way.”
Coash plans to more than double cooling capacity. The Jet Precoolers work so well that both companies plan to purchase more units to refrigerate product.
“This cooler doesn’t break down, which is super important,” says Serrano. “With its two fans, it cools the product fast and doesn’t sweat, which means it won’t create mold or decay in the product. This unit is small compared to the others. You wouldn’t think of it as powerful as it is, which is important when you’re limited in cooling space.”
“It was pretty intriguing, because it is so portable,” Coash adds. “As our facility didn’t have capacity to add tunnel cooling, these jet coolers are perfect. They move a lot of air, which is something you wouldn’t think about for a machine of this size, but it’s not as simple as it looks. At first, I was skeptical, but these work so well.”
“Our Jet Precoolers are made in America, right here in Philadelphia at the Philly Navy Yard business park,” says Jim Still, vice president of Global Cooling. “All our components are the best that money can buy, and our portables are amazingly powerful. Time after time, we outperform bunker wall systems and farm-built box fans.”