HONOMALINO — More consumers on the mainland will experience what the Big Island already knows — Hawaiian Sharwil avocados are arguably the best gourmet avocados with their rich buttery flavor and smooth creamy texture.
Avoland in South Kona received their USDA certification and are the second packing house on the island now able to ship to customers in 33 states.
On Saturday, it celebrated its entry into the market with a traditional Hawaiian blessing ceremony performed by Kahu Danny Akaka.
Kane Plantation in South Kona started shipping the avocado variety in 2018.
It all means more Sharwils heading east to the majority of the nation.
Avoland owner Michael Krones has been growing the avocado variety for 20 years at his 800-tree orchard in Honomalino. He had a vision about three years ago of building a packing house. What started out as a dream turned into reality when Gil Robinson designed and built an automated system to process the avocados and prepare them for packaging and shipping.
“It is all USDA approved, which is very restrictive,” Robinson said of the 1,750-square-foot facility, which includes a 400 square-foot chill room. “The USDA has a 28-page regulation guide for packers.”
The packing house also includes a 300-square-foot double door delivery area, and an additional 300-square-foot Americans with Disabilities Act-complaint bathroom and break room.
Also featured is a hydrogen peroxide bath with water jets propelling the fruit to a conveyor belt where they are polished and dried though a series of soft brushes before being delivered to a circular conveyor where they are hand-weighed and packaged in 25-pound boxes.
Krones explained that Sharwil is the only avocado variety allowed to be exported, and only from November to March, which coincides with the growing season and winter months on the mainland.
The variety is viable for shipment because of its thick skin and high meat-to-pit ratio. They are also not susceptible to the Asian fruit fly, which was a previous concern that suspended exports for over 25 years. He said the rich volcanic soil of Hawaii Island makes for ideal growing conditions.
Krones said the packing house will be able to process 4,000 to 6,000 pounds of avocados a day.
Farms that wish to utilize the packing house must also be USDA certified 30 days prior to packaging, but according to Krones, it is worth the effort because of the premium price the Sharwil demand for export.
Krones welcomes any USDA-certified Sharwil farmers to bring their fruit to him for export starting Friday. He also encourages other farmers to obtain certification.
“The USDA will be here while we are packing,” said Krones. “They will perform biometric sampling. They will sample them to make sure they are not mushy and have a nub (the small stem attached to the fruit). If they have any question in their mind, they will reject it.”
But Krones welcomes the inspection, which will ensure the Big Island avocado will maintain its reputation as the finest avocado available. He credits the USDA for being very helpful in the process of certification, as the crops here could become a major produce exporter.
“Export brings the price of Sharwils up,” said Krones. “We should honor the avocado.”
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