Dulcich & Sons Grapes

Delano, CA

Colossus Fans Solve Multiple Challenges

After the world’s finest California table grapes are carefully hand-picked for color and rigorously tested for just the right sugar content, one of their worst enemies all comes down to one critical detail: unwanted moisture.

If unwanted moisture occurs prior to or during the grape packing process, or even during shipment, that can lead to mold growth well before the perishable product arrives at its destination. And that then leads to very unhappy customers on the receiving end.

That’s why grape grower, packer and shipper Jakov P. Dulcich & Sons has invested in four EPIC Colossus™ industrial HVLS (high volume low speed) fans as integral components of its relatively new 16,000-square foot California table grape packing facility in Delano, Calif. Among several benefits, the fans work hard to ensure that the company’s grapes remain free of unwanted moisture, especially during the critical packing process prior to shipment.

From Croatia to the U.S. by way of Chile

In 1959, Jakov Dulcich and his wife emigrated from Croatia to Chile. Only a year later, they settled in Delano, Calif., one of the best grape growing regions in the world. They then worked in vineyards owned by Jakov’s uncle, saving enough money to invest in their own small piece of farmland in 1975.

Today, the Dulcich’s sons, Nick and Peter, continue to expand the farm their parents founded. It now includes 6,000 acres of vineyards and a multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art storage and distribution center. The facility includes a packing line operation, receiving area as well as 60,000-square feet of cold storage.

Jakov P. Dulcich & Sons, as a grower, packer, shipper, markets 15 different varieties of red, green and black seedless table grapes. Harvesting normally occurs between July and mid-November when the operation employs anywhere from 200 to 500 workers and ships approximately 60,000 boxes worldwide each day.

Unwanted moisture induces mold growth

California summers are famous for their extreme temperatures.  The company’s covered but open-air receiving area is especially uncomfortable for forklift drivers during the harvest season’s hottest months.  That’s because they wear heavy jackets while transporting harvested table grapes between the

“Toting fruit in from the field and packing the product inside is a fairly new concept for us,” said Jacob McCaa, General Manager, Jakov P. Dulcich & Sons.  “As a result, our efficiency levels have improved dramatically.  What used to take three steps using a team of two has been reduced to a one-step process in the packing area.”

HVLS fans play vital role in quality control

Vital to Jakov P. Dulcich & Sons’ quality, moisture and temperature control efforts are two 24-foot Colossus HVLS fans located above the 16,000-square foot packing line area and two 12-foot Colossus HVLS fans in the operation’s receiving area.

“We originally planned to invest in two industrial fans for the packing room for airflow and moisture control,” McCaa pointed out. “We knew that the increased airflow would help to keep the grapes dry, especially if they came into the receiving area wet.”

McCaa also emphasized that employee comfort in the packing room is an important concern. In addition, Jakov P. Dulcich & Sons was focused on reducing the amount of expensive energy consumption that is required to the keep the packing line at just the right temperature.

“We’re anticipating that the industrial fans will help reduce our air conditioning costs for the 16,000-square foot packing line area, which can get quite expensive,” McCaa said. “Our HVAC system is also somewhat loud, and we don’t want to run it non-stop. The HVAC system can also make the indoor environment uncomfortably cold, so the fans really help with the overall airflow and keeping the room at consistent and comfortable temperature for the employees.”

Jakov P. Dulcich & Sons’ forklift drivers are benefitting from the two 12-foot diameter Colossus HVLS fans as well. The fans keep the drivers more comfortable while waiting for the table grapes to arrive in totes on pallets from the field.

Once the grapes arrive at the receiving area, the drivers unload the palletized grapes onto a conveyor belt. From there, the palletized grapes are wrapped with plastic film to await transport to cold storage for chilling. The receiving area’s fans not only help to provide air movement to keep drivers comfortable, they also provide needed airflow for the pallets of grapes that are stored short-term in the receiving area prior to chilling.

McCaa further explained that the inside packing area also helps to ensure that company’s table grapes are consistently packed at the correct weights so customers receive what they are expecting to receive.  Packing the grapes inside also protects the product from the rain.

“We definitely can’t pack wet grapes,” McCaa stressed.  “That’s because wet grapes will induce mold growth, so we carefully check for unwanted moisture in the storage boxes even before they’re sent to cold storage to await packing.  Moisture control is extremely important to our operation.”

Jakov P. Dulcich & Sons keeps its packing room at an even 52 degrees F so that when harvested table grapes are removed from cold storage, they won’t begin to sweat.  That could then cause unwanted moisture issues in the product’s packing.

Personalized buying experiencing a plus

All four I-Fans at Jakov P. Dulcich & Sons feature black blades with silver hubs, struts and motor cover. McCaa said he began his fan search online and really liked what he saw on the Epic Fans website. “Compared to other fan companies that we researched, what stood out most for us with Epic Fans are product quality, the fan blade configurations, overall design features and silent operation. We also found the Epic Fans airflow videos very educational and informative,” he added.

Furthermore, McCaa related how much he valued the consistent and personal one-on-one buying experience he encountered while working with Dan Linder, Sales Manager, HVLS Fans, Loading Dock Products, EPIC. “One large and well-known fan company we researched kept annoying us with what seemed like endless and irrelevant e-mails and phone calls,” said McCaa. “We also never dealt with the same person at that other company, which made us feel more like a number than an important and valued customer.”

McCaa explained that he simply sent Linder photos so that Epic Fans could then spec the proper size and locations for the Colossus fans. Extra required parts, which included pole extensions, were also shipped and delivered in a timely manner so that Jakov P. Dulcich & Sons’ electrician could move ahead with the fan installations.

“We’ve found that operating the fans is very easy using the touch keypad,” McCaa shared. “Overall, the fans are a real blessing for our forklift drivers. They were pleasantly surprised to experience how much more comfortable the receiving area environment is now when they arrive there from cold storage. They no longer sweat during hot weather while waiting for another pallet of grapes to arrive from the field.”

McCaa concluded, “Based on our experience, we highly recommend Epic Fans for any packing facility in the ag industry with a commodity that requires moisture control, coolness and sufficient airflow. As we grow, we’ll certainly choose Epic Fans for any additional industrial fan needs. We couldn’t have asked for an easier process or project.”