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That’s the total pounds of almond meats the warehouse can store. The plant can receive 5 and a half tons of almonds per day, an increase in receiving capacity of 33 percent. And it only takes four employees to run it per shift.
That’s because the 48,000-square-foot facility was designed with a series of conveyor belts so that from the time the nuts arrive to when they move to storage bins and out for further processing, nobody actually touches them.
“When you handle them, you can certainly damage them,” said Blue Diamond Director of Major Projects Darrel Nelson. “And then we feel the way that the world is going with the Food Safety Modernization Act, we need to do our part to minimize the touches.”
The new bulk receiving facility, Bulk Warehouse 7, officially opened Tuesday and was touted for its innovative features.
The plant was designed to handle almond meats gently. For example, the giant bins where the nuts are stored are sloped at a gradual 26 degrees so the almonds can free flow to the bottom to conveyors when they’re fed to the main plant for processing. That keeps the nut meats from being damaged.
“Growers are paid a premium for quality,” Nelson said.
With the booming popularity of almonds, efficiently getting the nuts in from the orchards for processing has become increasingly important. The USDA has projected almond production at a record 2.05 billion pounds. Virtually all almonds are grown in California and half the state’s almond growers belong to the Blue Diamond cooperative.
With innovations at the new facility, trucks can be unloaded in just seven minutes. It’s expected to alleviate the long lines trucks faced when they brought almonds in during harvest.
“The growers are paying their truck drivers an hourly wage, so it’s costing them money,” Nelson said.
The warehouse was built with materials sources from a 100-mile radius of Salida, using workers and contractors from that same 100-mile region.
Shawn Cooper, the project engineer for the building’s contractor Whiting Turner, estimated the project provided jobs for between 300 and 400 workers throughout the course of construction.
“It’s a serious deal, the work that’s provided around the region,” he said.