Scotian Gold: Investment in robotics will increase capacity
Monday, October 18, 2021
Scotian Gold Cooperative Limited is a grower-owned tree fruit co-op specializing in high quality, premium apple varieties such as Honeycrisp, SweeTango and Ambrosia. Since 1912, when a group of fruit growers got together and formed the United Fruit Companies of Nova Scotia, the business has evolved into a state-of-the-art facility.
Based in the Annapolis Valley, Scotian Gold stores, packs and markets 60% of the apple production in Atlantic Canada. Now the business is adding a new line and robotics to increase its packing efficiency.
“We’ve always tried to be on the cutting edge of technology and advancement whether it is with storages or production lines,” says CEO David Parrish. “All our controlled-atmosphere storages are computer automated, with some advanced systems that enable us to extend our marketing window on our apples. We are able to market our fruit nearly year-round, which is a benefit to our customers. On our packing lines, the addition of new robotics will eliminate the repetitive activities of our people and allow them to be reassigned elsewhere in the plant.”
Through NSBI’s Small Medium Enterprise Innovation Rebate Program, the company is eligible to earn a maximum innovation rebate of $406,421.50 once the project is completed, based on eligible Nova Scotia capital spending of $1.6 million.
“Sean Cochrane, our NSBI rep, has been very good,” Parrish says. “We can pick up the phone and discuss our ideas at any time. With some projects, a reasonable return on investment can be difficult to achieve, but NSBI’s support makes the projects viable.”
The pandemic was a catalyst for more innovation and change. “One simple change was with our systems when growers bring in their fruit,” he says. “Traditionally trucks would bring a delivery slip with their load of apples. In order to limit interaction due to the pandemic, our growers were asked to electronically send their load information before the truck arrived. We discovered that we were able to move trucks through our system much faster. We will continue to use this system going forward. The pandemic has made us look at things differently throughout the company. In many cases, we’ve found ways to do things better.”
With some projects, a reasonable return on investment can be difficult to achieve, but NSBI’s support makes the projects viable.
Export is Scotian Gold’s lifeblood. “The US market is important especially for our Honeycrisp apple — because of our climate we grow one of the best Honeycrisp in the world,” Parrish says. “Our volume is continuing to go up as growers plant more, not just Honeycrisp but other varieties, and one of our key strategic points is to expand export markets.”
They sell weekly into Quebec and Ontario and also market SweeTango, a Honeycrisp hybrid, across Canada. Scotian Gold is a member of a US marketing group that owns the marketing rights to SweeTango in North America.
Because of Nova Scotia’s distance from many of its markets, innovation is especially important, Parrish believes. “It’s an old line, but if you’re not moving ahead, you’re going backwards,” he says. “Our customers are consolidating and getting larger, and we need to be a certain size to support those markets. Innovation leads to better-quality products and efficiencies for getting our product out the door.”
Want to learn more about the companies doing business in Nova Scotia? Read the 2020-2021 NSBI Annual report.