Growing The Best Pineapple

At the plantation, farming must not only be excellent; harvest must conform with Del Monte's yardstick for fruit processing and for fresh fruit export.

How do we grow quality pineapples? Plantation Engineering and Maintenance Senior Manager Luis “Boboy” Caballero, Jr. says the latest technological innovations may help us get ahead of the pack - a highly competitive pack that includes the world's top pineapple growers like Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, and Costa Rica - and continue to be a key player in a global business that produces over 14 million tons of pineapples a year.

Our technologies, Boboy explains, mainly support our goals for quality enhancement, productivity improvement, work safety and cost reduction. Teams from Operations, Engineering, Logistics and Finance jointly determine which technologies best fit the operational needs and technical skills of end-users.

But things were a lot different when Del Monte's business first started in 1926. Bulls did the difficult task of clearing Bukidnon's vast savannah and plowing the fields. A crown's journey into maturity was mostly the product of toiling hands.

Today, metal-and-steel giants, tractors of varying shapes and sizes rule the field. The slow whirring drone of their engines tells you that these are high-powered, computer-guided machines. They work round-the-clock.

Land Preparation

Heavy-duty plows allow operators to plow as deep as 30-36 inches for better plant growth. Challenger rubber-track crawler tractors do final plowing and cover an area three times more than ordinary wheel tractors. New sub-soiling crawler tractors stir and break soil beneath the surface. This modified version, with five detachable shanks, increases productivity by 40 percent.

Seed Treatment

Harmful insects and diseases usually attack young pineapple plants. To prevent crowns and slips from withering away, they undergo chemical treatment. The new seed dipping station in Camp JMC transforms what used to be a manual process of dipping pineapple crowns and slips in chemical solution into a highly mechanized one. Machines now calibrate and mix chemicals and then dip crowns into this solution. It's safer and more efficient.

Spray Operations

Right after planting, the young pineapple plant receives a special grow-and-glow diet from Spray Operations under Senior Manager Manuel “Marring” Dacalos.

Preparing the pineapple infant's “feeding formula” is done through fertilizer hatching tanks. Fixed-mounted and mobile tanks mechanically mix different granular fertilizers and chemicals, carried later on into the fields via nurse trucks, and applied on plants by CAMECO boom sprayers. Mobile tanks (capacity: 3,200 gallons) serve fields in Sumilao, Impasug-ong and Malaybalay. Like mothers feeding their infants, new nurse trucks (capacity: 4,000 gallons) bring “milk” to growing pineapple plants. The process goes on until the plants mature.

Harvest The pineapple crop reaches maturity within 11 months from planting. Six months after flowering, the fruit is ready for harvest. Some fruits are packaged, with crowns intact, at the Camp JMC Fresh Fruit Packing Shed and sold fresh in the foreign market. The rest are delivered to the processing plant in Bugo, Cagayan de Oro. Overseeing this whole process is Harvest, Trucking and Fresh Fruits under Senior Manager Aladino “Alax” Bacarrisas.

In the field, fruits for processing are loaded into 15 new fruit boom harvesters with foldable double arms. With better hydraulics, improved conveyors and more transfer points, these field giants can load fruit into long-bed fruit trucks (capacity: 20 tons). The prime movers are new wheel tractors whose pace equals the speed of pickers loading freshly-picked fruits into the harvester's twin arms.

Group Manager Andre “Bunnie” Jaranilla, who spearheads. Pineapple Culture as well as Papaya Operations in Misamis Oriental, says: “Our efforts at improving technologies anticipate the growing demand for Del Monte products in both domestic and foreign markets.”

Power Generation

High technology relies on good power supply. New power generators ensure uninterrupted power supply in areas where hatching tanks, fertilizer warehouses and other major equipment (like freezers at the Livestock's feedlot) are deployed or located. Housing camps for employees and their families also benefit from this power service.


In the area of telecommunications, the new wireless telephone technology speeds up transmission of data and instructions among plantation units and between the plantation and the cannery.

How much do you know about the pineapple?

The pineapple plant is classified as a terrestial herb (Ananas comosus), an edible member of the family Bromeliaceae. In Spanish-speaking countries, the pineapple is called pina and ananas by the Dutch and French. The pineapple plant spreads out to three to four feet, with a short stem and waxy, long-pointed and needle-tipped leaves. The leaves are usually green in color but may be variously striped with red, yellow or ivory tints. An individual fruit develops from the pineapple flowers which join together to form a cone-shaped juicy and fleshy fruit with a crown of leaves This fruit becomes mature and ready for harvest from 15-22 months. After the first fruit is harvested, another flower blooms and develops into the ratoon fruit. The old plant then withers away while crowns from the fruit and slips that grow on the plant can be used as planting material.

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