Clear Lake Citrus made an innovative approach and commitment to citrus packaging.
Third generation citrus grower Patrick Mancini has learned a lot about fruit over the years, enough to know the ideal way to forge ahead in the business was to branch into packing.
The 35-year-old operator of Clear Lake Citrus is combining hard work and good business sense to build a thriving operation at Lake Wyangan, 4-km North West of Griffith.
“Our family has always been farming.” Patrick said. “My father and grandfather were citrus farmers in the Griffith area, so it was a natural thing for me to get involved with.”
After Patrick completed his schooling, he graduated to the farm where he broke with family tradition by building up the packing side of the business.
“I thought there’s no money in farming so I came up with the idea of citrus packaging with packing oranges, and things grew from there,” he said.
Clear Lake Citrus was formed in 1999 but its roots were planted nearly 10 years ago when Patrick set up a grading machine in the 400 square metre shed on the family farm.
In the old days, the packing shed could process between 200 and 300 tonnes of fruit a year. These days the company operates nearly 7,500 square metre of shed space and employs sorting and grading technology.
Now with 70 to 80 growers on the books, Clear Lake Citrus buys in and packs approximately 20,000 tonnes of fruit annually.
“We have grown a bit since the early days. Things are going pretty well, it’s a good life and I enjoy it,” Patrick said.
Their citrus packaging is concentrated primarily on navels, valencias and a small amount of grapefruit, Clear Lake Citrus distributes its produce to markets in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne and ships small quantities overseas to destinations including Korea and Canada.
Clear Lake Citrus recently purchased Colour Vision Systems ’ new 4 lane Integra Quantum grader.
The Colour Vision Systems' Integra Quantum grader has many advanced features that have made good improvements for Patrick and the team at Clear Lake Citrus.
The Colour Vision Systems-Integra has been grading for size and weight with splits for first, second, third, juice and frost affected fruit. The grader can also remove green or lemon-shaped fruit in addition to all of the above.
“This has improved our efficiencies enormously, allowing us to keep a more consistent line going,” Patrick said.
“The machine can sort as well as size the fruit and pick up any frosted or dry produce. It allows us to increase our throughput and re-deploy our staff to other areas of the operation,” he said.
The Colour Vision Systems' Integra has reduced labour requirement for grading by three to four people, now only two hand graders are required on the main sorting line.
In another forward thinking move, Clear Lake Citrus recently had all its growers become Hazard Analysis Critical Care Points (HACCP) accredited.
Although not a mandatory requirement, it demonstrates that the growers and the company are committed to following responsible food and safety procedures.