Blue Diamond Growers unveiled its new state-of-the-art warehouse Tuesday, taking visitors above, below and all around 40 million pounds of nonpareil almonds.
The 48,000-square-foot Warehouse 7 increases the Sisk Road plant’s receiving capacity by 33 percent and is dedicated to nonpareils, the most prized almond variety. Nonpareils make up some 48 percent of the state’s crop, and “they’re worth the most money, so we designed this warehouse for them,” said Darrell Nelson, Blue Diamond’s director of major projects.
Though it currently stores only nonpareil almonds, Warehouse 7 has three storage areas, so it could hold different varieties.
Nelson spoke at a ribbon cutting for the warehouse, though it went into operation late last summer on a dry run for employee training and to make sure it worked properly. This season, it’s gone into full-time operation, he said.
It’s proven its success by already processing 7 million pounds of nonpareils, Nelson said, and currently holds 40 million pounds. It soon should reach capacity of 60 million pounds as the remainder of the harvest is brought in, he said.
In addition to increased capacity, the new facility’s design will reduce wait time for truckers bringing in almonds, Blue Diamond officials said. The warehouse can unload bulk trucks and boxes at the same time: fully loaded trucks every 15 minutes, boxes every two minutes.
Conveyor belts carry delivered almonds to the top of the warehouse, where they undergo a quality check, plant officials said. The conveyor system allows the nuts to then be deposited into any one of three storage bins in the warehouse.
A tour of the warehouse Tuesday took visitors on a long, inclined walk along the outside, a ladder climb to the top, and a catwalk stroll high above the almonds below.
All construction materials for the California-designed and -built warehouse came from within 100 miles of Salida, Blue Diamond says.
Design innovations touted by Blue Diamond include the warehouse’s W-shaped floor. With 26-degree slopes, the floors allow almonds to naturally flow through chutes onto outbound conveyors, eliminating the need for labor and equipment for unloading.
Originally, the warehouse was going to be 58,000 square feet. But Blue Diamond kept the same 60 million-pound capacity by going shorter in warehouse length but deeper. It extends 23 feet underground. A V-shaped floor would have gone below the water table, Nelson said, while the W shape avoided that problem.
Blue Diamond officials also noted the almonds are treated gently by the conveyor system and are untouched by employees from time of delivery to finished package.
“We feel, as far as the Food Safety Modernization Act, that the almonds should be not touched by humans, so we’re gonna load them into the warehouse, we’re gonna take them to the plant, all hands-free,” Nelson said. “We’re going to use electronics and mechanical to clean, sort, grade and package, free from human intervention.”
Warehouse 7 is 100 feet wide, 480 feet long and 60 feet tall, but also extends 23 feet underground.
Given its hands-free design, the new warehouse created a need for only eight to 10 new employees at the Sisk Road plant. The plant is on 40 acres and employs about 400 people. The remainder of the facility, which opened in 1969, is not hands-free, Nelson said, but “we’ll build new (warehouses) like this as we grow.”
Blue Diamond did not disclose the cost of the expansion, which makes the world’s largest almond receiving site even larger.
Blue Diamond, a grower-owned cooperative founded in 1910, is the world’s biggest almond producer. The Salida plant does basic sorting and cleaning of nuts bound for further processing at a Turlock plant that opened in 2013 and at the plant next to the Sacramento headquarters.
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327