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PWPM boasts the advantages of being entirely indoors

Heading toward its third anniversary in June, the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market continues to set standards around the world for its cutting-edge technology, cleanliness and unbroken cold chain that result in numerous benefits for tenants as well as for customers.

Dan Kane, general manager of the PWPM, pointed out that the advantages reaped by everyone involved in the market are numerous.

“The facility is maintained at a consistent temperature, which results in longer shelf life of product, comfort for tenants and customers — especially during a winter as we just had — and increased safety,” said Kane. “Since opening here, many of the merchants have received their food-safety audit, which increases their business opportunities.”

Kane noted that he and the merchants are excited about hosting the Eastern Produce Council’s dinner meeting at the terminal on May 13. And in fact, the terminal market has been host to numerous events and tours since its opening. Some say that the PWPM is the most advanced cutting-edge fresh produce facility in the world. And the many tours people from around the world take at the market are a sure signal that produce professionals are trying to learn from the best.

The PWPM lays claim to be the world’s largest fully enclosed, fully-refrigerated wholesale produce terminal. The facility’s main building is one-quarter of a mile long and 686,000 square feet — larger than 14 football fields.

Visually, the PWPM’s most remarkable feature is the central concourse that runs the length of the building The loading docks are located on the outer side of the concourse but within the structure ensuring the unbroken cold chain. An enormous skylight warms the colorful, clean and safe shopping area.

“It would be nice to say that every detail in the terminal was perfect from the start,” said Kane, “but it’s not reasonable to think that we haven’t faced some challenges. There was an initial refrigeration issue related to size, but it was addressed and corrected even before we took occupancy.”

The PWPM board consists of 11 members. Louis Penza of Pinto Bros. Inc. is the chairman; John DiFeliciantonio, president of North American Produce Co., is the secretary; and John Vena, president of John Vena Inc., serves as treasurer.

Kane said the goal of the board and members is to have the market association recognized as its own entity so it can operate under a U.S. Department of Agriculture certification.

“This type of system does not yet exist in the U.S., but this new facility provides an excellent opportunity for the first program to be developed,” Kane said. “We would like the USDA to work with us in developing such a process. We already set precedence in cleaning, sanitation and waste management as a united group. USDA inspectors should be able to come into the facility and conduct their inspections all at one time, rather than each company having to deal individually with the agency.”

The PWPM sends about 10 tons of wet waste per day to a compost facility. A separate waste management building at the market separates all cardboard, shrink-wrap, crates and other wooden materials, plastics and clamshells. In total, about 85 percent of its waste is recycled, and the market sends one 48- to 53-foot trailer per week of packaging materials to a recycling center. All of PWPM tenants participate in the waste program.

“The facility is also highly energy efficient,” Kane noted. “For example, the lighting system is on a sensor so they go off at off-peak hours. All of the merchants have expressed how pleased they are to be able to work at such a highly technical facility.

“Everyone agrees that customers load much more efficiently here,” Kane continued. “And the overall grounds are much safer for both customers and staff.”

On March 26-29, the National Association of Produce Market Managers 68th Annual Conference was held in New York City. At the meeting Kane took office as president of the organization for the 2014-15 term.

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