It began with their invention of the pull-type tomato harvester, and that’s what’s continuing to pull Pik Rite around the globe in 27 countries.
The Lewisburg-based company, with the partnership of SEDA-Council of Governments’ (SEDA-COG) Export Development Program, recently shipped one of their tomato harvesters to Argentina.
Their Argentinian customer, Alcaraz Gourmet, is in the city of Mendoza, an excellent area for fruit and vegetable production. Alcaraz Gourmet sows, harvests, processes, and cans the produce. As their business expanded, they wanted to buy a second Pik Rite tomato harvester to join the first one they bought from the company years before.
Although it is a difficult process to export to Argentina, their persistence paid off after 2 years when they finally got their shipping approvals. After they were obtained, Pik Rite Shipping Manager Jeff Ansell contacted SEDA-COG’s Export program in July to help navigate through the final regulations.
The import certificate needed translated, so SEDA-COG Export Director Noelle Long contacted a trade representative in Mexico to help with the task. Because it was a used tomato harvester, Argentina required that it be fumigated, so Long also connected Pike Rite with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service for a fumigation certificate.
Ansell said SEDA-COG’s partnership made the final stretch go smoothly.
“I had never done a fumigation before. We didn’t even know where to start, so I reached out to Noelle, and she got the ball rolling – she got in touch with the USDA, laid out a process of where to start, and led us in the right direction from there. It was a huge help. Once we got a game plan and a pathway forward laid out, we followed it,” Ansell said.
It shipped on Aug. 31. Ansell looks forward to selling more parts to Alcaraz Gourmet, which will be easier because they’re new and not a whole good.
SEDA-COG’s Export program helps businesses dive into international markets, and has assisted almost 700 businesses in 11 central Pennsylvania counties.
“We can help in unique ways. Even if a business doesn’t need new sales, we can help facilitate logistics and make the process more smooth and efficient so they can reach their goals,” Long said.
Pik Rite got its start by two innovative friends who were tired of handpicking tomatoes on their farms – so they started looking for a way to pick tomatoes better and faster. By 1986, Elvin Stoltzfus and Joe Yoder had created the pull-type tomato harvester with a patented shaker system. They called their business Pik Rite because it picks tomatoes right.
“Other harvesters were self-propelled and built for California weather, so they couldn’t handle the wet weather here,” Ansell said. “East of the Mississippi, there’s a lot more rain and wet conditions.”
This harvester is pulled by a tractor and works in muddy conditions. “It picks the whole plant out of the ground, and you end up with a clean tomato at the end,” Ansell said.
It can harvest 30 tons of tomatoes per hour.
Although they built cucumber and other vegetable harvesters, their main focus has always been the tomato harvester.
In the 1990s, the company, located at 60 Pik Rite Lane, expanded into the vacuum tank and septic tank industries, and in the early 2000s, started building manure spreaders.
SEDA-COG’s Export Development team serves the businesses and communities of central Pennsylvania by encouraging and facilitating economic development through growth in world trade. It is funded by the state Department of Community & Economic Development’s Office of International Business Development and Partnerships for Regional Economic Performance.
For more information about SEDA-COG’s Export Development Program, contact Noelle Long at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 570-524-4491.