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Produce Season: Logistics and Warehousing Strategies for Florida's Peak Season

Steve Schlecht
Written by
Steve Schlecht
Published on
July 8, 2024
Food produce in a garden of fresh fruits and vegetables

Produce season can cause a 30% increase in demand for trucks and nearby warehousing space across key growing regions such as Florida, California, and Texas.  

After growers pick their produce, the clock starts to store in nearby warehousing locations and get the perishable goods to retailers and manufacturers in as quick of time as possible. 

Companies that offer such services must plan effective strategies ahead of time to manage this seasonal spike and maintain the quality of Florida's produce.

What is Florida Produce Season?

Produce season refers to the time of year when fruits and vegetables are harvested at their peak ripeness and availability. During this time, the supply of fresh produce is abundant, leading to increased activity in the agriculture industry. 

Florida is known for producing a variety of high-value fruits and vegetables. Some of the highest produce from Florida includes oranges and other citrus fruits, making the state one of the largest producers in the United States. In 2022-2023, 28 million boxes of Valencia oranges were produced, and 17 million were from Florida.

Problems and Key Strategies for Florida Warehousing and Logistics 

During peak produce season, Florida logistics and warehousing face heightened demands due to the massive influx of perishable goods needing immediate processing and distribution.

Problem: Varying Seasonal Demands

This poses a significant challenge due to the fluctuations in the types and volumes of produce harvested throughout the year. Crops peak at various times, requiring warehouses and transportation systems to adapt quickly to changing storage needs and distribution schedules. 

This can lead to issues with space allocation, workforce management, and maintaining specialized equipment and conditions, such as refrigeration for temperature-sensitive products. 

Here’s a list of Florida’s produce and their harvest times:

Product

Peak Season

Oranges | October - June

Grapefruits | October - April

Tomatoes | October - June

Strawberries | December - March

Bell peppers | October - June

Blueberries | March - May

Watermelons | April - July

Sweet corns | April - June

Cucumber | May - June

Snap beans | October - June

Strategy: Flexible Warehousing and Advanced Forecasting

To handle varying seasonal demands in Florida, warehousing and logistics companies should use flexible storage options and advanced inventory systems. These tools allow them to adjust quickly to changes in the amount and type of produce they will store and distribute, ensuring they can operate efficiently all year round.

For example, deploying temporary warehouses or pop-up storage facilities in strategic locations during high-demand periods can help manage excess produce without needing permanent expansion when the season is low.

Another example is utilizing advanced forecasting tools and software to predict seasonal peaks and troughs in produce availability. At Buske, during peak seasons, this helps us plan for space allocation, staffing, and resource management, ensuring the company can meet demand without overextending resources.

Problem: Insufficient Temperature-Controlled Warehouses

Given Florida's hot and humid climate, maintaining the right temperature and humidity levels in warehouses is crucial to prevent spoilage of perishable goods like fruits and vegetables. An example, Buske supports Fortune 500 clients with specialized temperature-controlled warehousing in key locations to ensure the freshness and quality of our perishable goods.

Storing tons of produce requires huge space allocations. Only a few Florida produce warehousing companies can offer substantial temperature-controlled storage spaces

Additionally, affordable and conveniently located warehousing space is often limited, pushing logistics operations to more remote locations, which may be better for rapid distribution.

Strategy: Mobile and Temporary Cooling Units

The demand for extensive, temperature-controlled storage often exceeds supply, making affordable and strategically located warehousing scarce. Instead of making permanent warehouse changes, plan on using temporary and mobile cooling units to keep up with the demand during peak produce season. 

A good example is Florida's strawberry harvest from November to March, where additional reefer containers can be positioned strategically in the supply chain to maintain optimal temperatures, ensuring the berries remain fresh from field to market. In addition, we will divide the space and put a curtain up to keep a section of the warehouse cooled when necessary.

This flexibility allows logistics companies to scale up and down quickly in seasonal produce fluctuations.

Problem: Labor Shortages

Peak seasons can lead to temporary labor shortages, making it difficult to scale operations up or down quickly. Finding enough skilled workers to handle increased loads during these times is often challenging. Overstaffing is costly while understaffing leads to missed opportunities and delays.

Besides the possible shortage, warehouse employees must be adequately trained in handling and storage techniques. Preserving the quality and freshness of fresh produce is vital. They must also adhere to food safety standards and regulatory compliance, minimizing risks of contamination and spoilage. 

Strategy: Temporary Staffing and Cross-Training

A Florida warehousing and storage company can adopt a strategic approach that combines temporary staffing, cross-training, and automation. 

For instance, Buske ensures we are always ready to scale up when demands call for it. One of our main steps is to partner with staffing agencies like Manpower, which specialize in temporary labor and can provide access to a flexible workforce whenever we need it.

In addition to increasing the number of workers, we cross-train our existing employees to perform multiple roles within the operation, ensuring that the workforce is versatile and can be reallocated to high-need areas during peak times.

We also invest heavily in automation technologies such as conveyor belts, robotic palletizers, and automated sorting systems. Our experience shows these can reduce the reliance on manual labor and increase efficiency, especially when there is high demand.

Problem: Hurricane Disruptions

Florida’s hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. The intense winds and flooding can damage infrastructure, disrupt power supplies, and obstruct transportation routes, leading to delays and potential spoilage of perishable goods. 

The workforce can also be temporarily reduced. This affects logistics operations, further complicating the timely distribution of produce.

Strategy: Contingency Planning

Hurricanes in Florida are unpredictable, so warehousing and logistics companies must develop contingency plans and communicate them to all employees.

For Buske, inventory redistribution is an example of what we include in our contingency plans. Before hurricane season, strategically relocate critical inventory from high-risk areas to safer inland warehouses. This minimizes potential damage and ensures continuity of supply.

Another one is that when we build our warehouses in Florida, we ensure that the structures are reinforced to withstand severe weather, including installing hurricane-proof windows and doors, and that all backup power systems, like generators, are operational.

A crucial part of our contingency plans is using cloud-based inventory and logistics management systems like NetSuite and Made4Net. These systems maintain access to critical operational data during disruptions and ensure all data is regularly backed up off-site.

Peak Season Means Peak Preparation

The challenges of Florida's peak produce season demand warehousing and logistics strategies to efficiently manage the surge of fresh produce. 

Companies like Buske show how adaptability and advanced technology, including flexible warehousing and strategic contingency planning for weather disruptions, are essential. These strategies ensure that Florida's diverse agricultural products reach markets in excellent condition, supporting the state's economy and farming industry.

If you want to learn more about Buske’s Food Warehousing and Logistics, you may contact us online or call us at +1 (618) 931-6091.