Conagra Brands, Inc. is looking to increase efficiency across its supply chain, opening a new facility that will maximize automation and enhance food safety for vegetable processing.
The new 245,000-square-foot processing plant is located in Waseca, Minnesota, and will process fresh vegetables to support its frozen meals business and Birds Eye brand.
Conagra is using tech in this space to monitor plants’ nutrients, syncing real-time data with the facility’s production schedule to pick and process vegetables at peak ripeness.
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This new processing plant replaces Waseca’s 92-year-old facility, expanding capacity by an estimated 20%. Annually, the company expects to process and produce more than 120 million points of cut and cob corn, 45 million pounds of peas, and more than 20 million pounds of rice.
Additionally, the company is looking toward sustainable practices, sourcing its peas and corn — which will be processed in this facility — from a network of local growers who are helping in the climate change fight by implementing water saving strategies, supporting biodiversity, and improving soil health.
Conagra anticipates the new facility will use approximately 25% less water per pound of product produced than the company's previous facility.
"The significant investment in our new facility in Waseca is indicative of the strong opportunity we see in our frozen foods business," said Sean Connolly, president and chief executive officer, Conagra Brands. "Conagra is committed to investing in innovation across the company, including our supply chain. We are also pleased to make the investment in Waseca where Birds Eye has a long history."
Ale Eboli, executive vice president and chief supply chain officer at Conagra Brands, said the company looked at every aspect of the facility to identify automation opportunities that could improve productivity and modernize food safety practices throughout its operations.
"The state-of-the-art design and uniquely designed equipment featured in the facility process fresh vegetables in the most efficient and responsible way possible," he added.