IN THE NEWS // Work begins on new facility for Kula Produce

Kula Produce has begun construction on a new produce facility at the Maui Lani Village Center, which should be completed at the end of 2016.

Ground was broken Oct. 9 on the new fully enclosed facility on 1.85 acres next to Oceanic Time Warner Cable that will allow the produce shipping and distribution company to expand services and to keep up with the latest standards for food quality and safety, according to an announcement.

The building will take advantage of green building techniques and modernized equipment for proper food storage and handling. There will be a photovoltaic energy system, LED lighting, refrigerated loading docks and receiving areas, and pressurized banana ripening rooms.

A new temperature-controlled process room will allow the company to expand to meet the growing market demand for convenience items, such as pre-sliced fruits and vegetables.

"We're very excited about this opportunity to build a brand-new facility, the way we want it, from the ground up," said Mark Teruya, chairman and chief executive officer of Armstrong Produce, parent company of Kula Produce. "Proper temperature control is critical for maintaining the cold chain and protecting the produce."

Kula Produce will be moving from its current location in Kahului, where it has been for more than 20 years, Teruya said. He noted that the new site is centrally located and near main roadways to facilitate delivery of products.

Company officials did not disclose the cost of construction of the new facility.

Armstrong Produce is a third-generation, family-owned business with operations on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island. Teruya's family roots are in farming, and the company's origins trace back to the 1940s when Waianae, Oahu, farmers Yoken and Ushi Teruya began buying and selling fruits and vegetables to support their family.

Today, the company supplies the state with fresh produce from the Mainland and local farmers. Some 30 to 40 percent of Armstrong Produce's products are locally grown, according to the announcement.

One of Armstrong Produce's strengths is "understanding the logistics and difficulties of shipping between the Mainland and the Neighbor Islands," Teruya said. Its facilities on three islands - including a new building in Kona scheduled to open at the end of this year - are part of a transportation chain that gets produce from farms to customers, according to the announcement.