Eqraft (Netherlands) - Family business Northwest Onion from Oregon was looking to invest in a new packing solution, but ended up opting for a whole new topping, grading, and packing line. ‘We’ve been sorting and packing onions with the same line since my dad started the business, so this change is very exciting,’ says Ryan Bennett, one of the owners.
Northwest Onion has been a point of reference for onions in the Willamette Valley in western Oregon since 1985, when Greg Bennett started the company. Since then, they’ve become one of the largest onion shippers in the area, packing and shipping their produce daily to customers around the world, mostly in the US and Asia. Greg’s sons Tony and Ryan have joined the company as well, collaborating on all aspects of the business.
Time for a drastic change:
After doing business the same way for almost 40 years, Northwest Onion was ready for something new. ‘It’s hard to find quality labor and with rates continuing to climb, we decided to move away from labor and invest in automated technology,’ explains Ryan Bennett. They’re currently working with a team of 30 people, but are hoping to size down to 10 once the new line is up and running. On top of minimizing labor costs, they’re looking to make a step forward in sorting. ‘The Eqrader allows us to provide a superior product. Sending out onions that were graded electronically will give us a feeling of reassurance, as we can now guarantee high quality.’ Northwest Onion will be the first company switching to electronic grading in their area, giving them a head start on their competitors.
“Eqraft helps us out with where we feed the line to where we load the truck. As opposed to being in touch with several companies for each part of the process, that sounded very appealing to us.” — Ryan Bennett, co-owner Northwest Onion.
Initially, the family business just wanted to invest in a new packing line, but when they started talking to Eqraft, they opted for an Eqrader and topper as well. ‘We realized there’s no such thing as easing into automation. We needed to make a big step forward and it needed to be drastic,’ says Ryan. After having assessed several other suppliers, the family company decided that Eqraft was the right fit. ‘I’ve heard good stories about Eqraft: they seem to be a solid company with great quality of equipment and a lot of engineering expertise,’ explains Ryan. ‘Another advantage was that they could offer us a package deal,’ he continues. ‘Eqraft helps us out with where we feed the line to where we load the truck. As opposed to being in touch with several companies for each part of the process, that sounded very appealing to us.’ The new line is quite an investment, but Ryan trusts it’s going to make all the difference. ‘Once we put the numbers on paper and saw the return of investment, everybody was on board.’
Northwest Onion’s new line, which is currently in the process of being installed, will consist of an onion topper, an Eqrader, and several packing machines. So far, the topper and Baxmatic are already up and running with good results. ‘After that, we’ll install the Eqrader, which will probably start running next summer,’ says Nico Bredenhoff, project manager at Eqraft. Like Northwest Onion, he’s very pleased with the new collaboration. ‘They’re truly a family company,’ he says. ‘They’re very welcoming people: me and my colleagues were received most warmly. We had lunch together every day. It’s a very nice and mutual collaboration.’
The family behind North West Onion: Greg Bennett with his sons, Tony and Ryan, and their families.