Rasch Brothers Apple Storage
Over the last century, the Rasch family has developed a strong presence in West Michigan by planting new state-of-the-industry orchards and developing a business with national reach. One building that brings the extended family together is Rasch Brothers Apple Storage. Owned by cousins Don, Fred and Chuck Rasch, the facility provides storage and packing for Rasch family orchards. Dan Schwallier has been manager at Rasch Brothers Apple Storage since 1986, and is a third-generation farmer himself. Dan works closely with grower Don Rasch, who plays an active role in the operations as the managing partner. “It’s a great family to work with,” Dan says. “They know I have a lot of experience so they trust me to handle the day-to-day activities.”
Rasch Brothers is a busy place. They pack between 16,000 and 39,000 bins annually, depending on weather and crop yield. The facility also has storage capacity for over 200,000 bushels in nine different Controlled Atmosphere (CA) rooms. Rasch Brothers Apple Storage is well-equipped to support the production of the family’s expanding orchard acreage. Dan also makes sure the storage facility always has top-of-the-line technology. From new graders to sorters with advanced internal and external defect sorting, the focus is on automation. “The more we can automate to set a very specific, consistent standard of quality, the better our product will be,” explains Dan. Recently, the packing house made a significant investment in upgrading its waxing processes to adopt research from Michigan State University. The outcome has been more appealing and consistent apple packs, no matter how Michigan’s humidity varies!
An important part of Dan’s role is to keep the storage facility operating efficiently while using as little energy as possible. Recent technological advancements have allowed Dan to tighten up the system and capture excess resources. “One thing we’ve done is to capture BTUs from the hot gas refrigerant and use it to heat the dump tank water,” he explains. “It was just going to waste before, but now it helps by warming the surface of the fruit to achieve a better finish on the apple.”
That is just one of the many methods used at Rasch Brothers Apple Storage, and Dan’s excited about the way the industry is going. “There’s a lot of new technology on the horizon that will change the way we do business,” he says. “Full traceability is an important step, and we’re moving toward the ultimate goal of completely integrated information.” As soon as new techniques are available, Rasch Brothers Apple Storage can be counted on to perfect and bring them to Michigan’s apple industry.