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British are Smitten

Prevar Limited has licensed the rights to grow, market, and sell the Smitten apple in the United Kingdom to Worldwide Fruit Limited and Empire World Trade ­Limited.

Smitten (PremA17 cultivar) was bred by Plant and Food Research in New Zealand, which is contracted by Prevar to breed new varieties of apples and pears. It originated from crossing a Falstaff and Fiesta sibling cross with a Braeburn-Royal Gala cross in 1995.

Smitten is an early season apple similar in size to Royal Gala. It has a red striped blush over a green-yellow background, and has a sweet, tangy subacid flavor. The apple stores well in regular or controlled atmosphere and has a long shelf life. The tree has a vigorous, upright growth habit. It is productive and bears annually, according to information from Prevar.

The variety has been under trial in the United Kingdom for three years. It appears to crop well under U.K. conditions. Brett Ennis, chief executive of Prevar, expects strong interest from growers and retailers, and plans to develop a planting program in the United Kingdom.

Prevar has also licensed Smitten in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States.

Prevar is an international joint venture company established to develop and commercialize new varieties. Quarantine, testing, tree propagation, and intellectual management services are provided to Prevar under contract by the Associated International Group of Nurseries.

Stemilt honored for community support

Washington State’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs has honored the Wenatchee-based Stemilt Growers, Inc., with a Community Collaboration Award for the ­company’s strong investment and involvement in the Hispanic community.

The company has a free health clinic for employees, and partners with the Wenatchee Valley Literacy Council to offer employees free English and Spanish classes on site. Stemilt is the primary sponsor of the Wenatchee Youth Soccer League each year and recently donated soccer goals to the City of Rock Island for its community park. Stemilt also sponsors Fiestas Mexicanas, an annual event in Wenatchee that celebrates the ­traditional, educational, and artistic facets of the Mexican culture.

The company provides support to students through its college scholarship program with the Washington Apple Education Foundation and makes contributions to numerous other community organizations.

Stemilt’s president West Mathison and his wife, Courtney, who chairs the company’s social responsibility committee, accepted the award during the commission’s 40th anniversary gala in Seattle recently. The company was one of six Community Collaboration Award recipients.

Packer cuts energy use

Stemilt Growers, Inc., of Wenatchee, Washington, has received a Washington Governor’s Award for Leadership in Energy Performance. Tate Mathison, Stemilt’s sales team leader, and Monty Leavitt, refrigeration manager, accepted the award, which ­recognized the company’s energy efficiency efforts.

With the help of Chelan County Public Utility District, Stemilt has cut energy consumption at its largest packing facility at Olds Station, Wenatchee, by 30 percent over the past two years.  It did so by reducing the speed of the industrial refrigeration fans and installing carbon dioxide scrubbers to control the atmosphere in storage rooms. Fan speeds are adjusted regularly, based on the demand for refrigeration in each storage room.

Apples release carbon dioxide as they are stored, and the installation of scrubbers helps control the amount of carbon dioxide inside fruit storage rooms, which significantly reduces Stemilt’s reliance on nitrogen, the traditional way carbon dioxide was purged from rooms.

Together, these improvements helped Stemilt realize energy savings of 8.7 million kilowatt hours annually, which is enough energy to power about 400 homes in Chelan County and equates to a $167,000 reduction in utility costs for Stemilt.

The two projects cost $1 million to implement, of which $625,000 was paid for by rebates from the Chelan County Public Utilities District. Washington State University paid $50,000 towards the variable-speed fan project.