Beautiful fruit, grown with a passion for perfection, packed and delivered impeccably, is the Allan Brothers way
Fewer sensations transport us like the first taste of a seasonal fruit: The tart crunch of a ripe apple conjures an autumn memory; the promise of summer is revealed in a single piquant cherry; a sip of Sauvignon Blanc feels like spring; a velvety mouthful of Merlot comforts as the first snow drifts from the evening sky.
Over four generations, the guardians of those sensory journeys have worked the orchards of the Pacific Northwest. Established over a century ago, Allan Brothers doesn’t just grow and pack prize-winning varieties such as Envy™, Jazz™, and Honeycrisp apples and Rainier cherries — the company is leading its perfect slice of the fruit industry in technological implementation.
The Allan family grows tree fruits targeted to bring in the healthiest returns while making sure their packing operations meet the most stringent requirements of their retail customers. The company has multiple apple and cherry packing lines, cutting-edge cold storage and distribution facilities, a comprehensive quality control system, and a proprietary warehouse management system.
"Miles’ leadership has been the reason why we have excelled the way we have in technology,” said Allan Brothers’ chief information officer, Autumn Bernier. “He has been a huge advocate and supporter of the use and advancement in our investments in technology.”
Allan Brothers operates approximately 2,500 acres throughout Eastern Washington and packages its own lines of apples and cherries in addition to packing those fruits for other growers in the state.
“Historically, we've been very heavily focused on apple and cherry growing and packing, and in 2014 we made a strategic decision to expand our portfolio and move into wine grapes,” Bernier said. In 2016, Allan Bros. Fruit expanded the Sagemoor brand to include Gamache Vineyards, growing their total vineyard operations to just over 1,000 acres. These wine grapes are sold to over 100 wineries across the US and Canada.
Timing, Taste, and Technology
Strategic technology investments are at the core of Allan Bros. Fruit’s mission to provide an exceptional experience to the end consumer. For example, the company’s apple packing lines feature proprietary operational analytics software, and Compac LED color and defect sorting and near infrared internal defect sorting to gather as much information as needed on every piece of fruit they grow.
Bernier, who joined Allan Brothers in 2008, helped lead the development of the firm’s warehouse management and vineyard management systems. “We quickly learned what technology could bring to the warehouse, and HighJump, which is the warehouse management system that we use, allowed us to continue to build onto the core WMS. We began leveraging the customization offered in HighJump and folded other areas of the business into the WMS which had previously been manual, disjointed processes. Some of the systems we built included QC and grower reporting.
“In the past, my job was all about streamlining processes and digitizing. Now, we work to create more than just systems — we create intelligent information for our executives, management team, and line workers — everyone is hungry for information. We’ve been collecting data for so long – now we are working hard on data accessibility and how we can put the right information in the right hands to make smarter decisions,” she declared.
That line of thinking went into the development of the information systems on Allan Bros. Fruit new hybrid packing line. Not only does this line offer state of the art food safety handling, sorting, and packing technology and robotics palletization, it also has a fully integrated information system.
These integrations begin at the planning, storing, and marketing stages and permeate through every aspect of the packing and shipping process. “Multiple inputs, redundancies, and manual reporting are all being eliminated.” says Bernier. “The conceptualization of this line was culminated from years of research and planning along with our understanding of fruit physiology, growing practices and techniques we’ve been learning in the field. We are bringing it all together and incorporating that knowledge and expertise into the packing, shipping, and marketing of the fruit.”
Bernier also helped lead the initiative to upgrade Sagemoor’s existing vineyard management system (VMS). With over 1,000 acres of wine grapes in five vineyards, Sagemoor, Bacchus, Dionysus, Weinbau, and Gamache, the operation produces grapes for over 100 wineries as well as boutique and niche market cellars.
“Everything starts in the vineyard with the grapes, so that’s where we started building the foundation for the VMS,” she explained. “We began by creating mobile apps for the viticulture processes we conduct for estimating, an important process in vineyard management. The wineries we grow for may have a heavy hand in dictating how we grow the fruit, how many tons they want per acre, and the different attributes they’d like the fruit to have.”
The apps gather information throughout the growing process, from bud development to pre-harvest and cluster weighing, providing critical information in tandem with the vintner’s preferences on how the grapes are to be grown. The VMS combines the field viticulture data with winery contracts, instructions, and harvest activities, giving winemakers and managers the detailed information needed to make the best decisions.
“We gather the ripening information on grapes including sugar, acid, and pH levels, and put all that into a database that immediately feeds into our website.” Winemakers access the data on demand and direct Sagemoor to farm when they deem the fruit has acquired the precise attributes they seek for the wine being made.
“We are the caretakers. Our expertise comes in how we nurture the fruit – the pruning, thinning, and watering. The VMS allows us to focus on that job by organizing all contracts, instructions, scheduling and harvest activities, so our systems can flow as seamlessly as possible.”
Said Bernier, “I’ve never believed the saying ‘It’s not personal, it’s just business.’ The work we do is very personal. As cliché as it sounds, we pour our heart and soul into what we do. We care deeply about the fruit we produce and the experience the customer has. My job is to create systems that allow our people to focus on this and not have to worry about the tools they need to do that job. This allows us to be more productive and let everyone’s talents and passions shine through in everything they do." Well, that and a handful of Rainier cherries.
Allan Brothers Fruit, an agriculture services-based company specializing in vineyard management, and apple and cherry growing and packing, is based in the Yakima Valley region of Eastern Washington. In business since 1951, the firm grows apples, pears and cherries
The company also owns and operates Washington’s historic Sagemoor Vineyards, incorporating Gamache Vineyards, which the company acquired in 2016.
The company sells and distributes its produce to consumers throughout the United States, as well as internationally through an expansive chain of retailers. Allan Brothers Fruit runs its fruit packing, storage, and export services year-round.
The Naches-based warehouse provides cold and controlled atmosphere storage, serves as a fruit distribution center, and is also a grower and exporter of popular apple and cherry varieties.
Using state-of-the-art technology, Allan Brothers Fruit strives to provide the highest quality domestic & export fruit products to the end consumer as well as exceed the needs of its retail customers. As a family-owned business, Allan Brothers Fruit is also involved in local agricultural production.