IMG Citrus, based in Vero Beach, Florida, has acquired J&J Fresh Produce assets. These assets, also located in Vero Beach, include a new 185,000-square-foot cold storage and packaging facility and 1,000 acres of farmland in the Delta Farms Water Control District.
“This is an exciting acquisition and a key component of our growth strategy,” said Melanie Ressler, co-chief executive officer of IMG Enterprises, the parent company of IMG Citrus. “We have been replanting citrus in Florida for the past decade while developing a summer citrus import program with strategic partners in South America. We have outgrown our existing facilities, and this acquisition will allow us to continue our growth trajectory while significantly strengthening our supply-chain and logistics capabilities.”
The new facility is located between I-95 and the Florida Turnpike. With more than 3,000 pallet positions, state-of-the-art refrigeration technology, 20 dock doors and space for future expansion, the facility will support IMG Citrus’ strategy of supply-chain integration.
“We are more than a grower,” Ressler said. “We are a strategic partner for retailers, wholesalers, importers and exporters who want to work with Florida and access the Southeast markets with the most efficient cost structure and the shortest transit time to market. This facility allows us to reduce costs (and) food miles and increase freshness for our partners.”
During a period of prolonged citrus industry decline, the company has made significant acquisitions, including the 4,000-acre Happy Food Grove in 2019 and the 2,500-acre Imagine Grove in 2021. “Florida produces the best-tasting grapefruit in the world, and our customers are passionate about the product,” Ressler said. “This is what gives us the confidence to invest in challenging times.”
In 2021, IMG Citrus planted its first citrus under protective screen (CUPS) project, a controlled environment that allows growers to produce in a greening-free environment. CUPS also offers reduced wind scarring, more vigorous tree growth and larger fruit size. “We are encouraged by what we are seeing from our trees in CUPS, and we plan to expand the CUPS program over the coming years to further increase supply and diversify production risk,” Ressler said.
Most of the company’s 11,000 acres of citrus production is in traditional open-air groves. IMG Citrus continues to invest in those, too. The company reported that its adoption of innovative production practices has allowed it to maintain profitable yields and continue to supply markets worldwide. Those practices include tree protector bags, intelligent sprayers, cover crops, composting, the use of beneficial microbes and the reduction of synthetic fertilizers and chemicals. The company is also planting more than 100,000 trees per year.
IMG Citrus has embraced a year-round citrus strategy by developing imports from South America. “Our customers want citrus year-round, and they trust us to provide solutions in this category,” Ressler said. “We saw an opportunity to meet their needs and utilize our packinghouse and cold storage facilities in the summer with imported fruit from Peru and Chile.”
Source: IMG Citrus