The Agricultural Cooperative Rachis Pierias “O AGIOS LOUKAS”
The Agricultural Cooperative Rachis Pierias “O AGIOS LOUKAS” was founded in 1978 to initially operate as an administrative committee whose object was to create a cherry orchard for its members. In cooperation with the local departments of the Prefecture in 1979-80, the Cooperative launched a pilot project involving the planting of a cherryorchard of 350 thousand square meters, which offered to the Cooperative a prize that was given by the Ministry of Agriculture. This pilot project was very successful and the entire area became known on account of the new and dynamic product, the product’s quality and the cooperative nature of the particular cultivation. Until 1990 the entire annual crop – 300 to 450 tons of cherries – was allocated to exports in Europe, which improved the country’s foreign trade balance.
In 1991 the A.C.Rachis Pierias “O AGIOS LOUKAS” was officially incorporated as an entity of ad hoc joint agricultural organization. In 1994-95 and in the framework of an investment plan under Leader I, the Cooperative built a sorting/refrigeration unit of 600 sq. meters which featured two refrigeration chambers for a total storage capacity of 200 tons.
In 2007 the Cooperative was granted preliminary recognition as a Producers’ Organization with the designation P.O.Rachis Pierias “O AGIOS LOUKAS” with the aim to carry out a 4-year investment plan of 3,7 million Euros. The investment was involved the expansion of the building installations, the modernization of the cooling chambers, the installation of a Hydrocooler, and the installation of an electronic sorting line per size and color of cherries (GP Graders/Australia).The capacity of this equipment is 4 tons per hour. Also, the investment plan included the replacement of old cherry trees and the installation of a modern system for the protection of the trees from torrential rain.
The new investment not only maintained but also increased the quality of the product, offered new capabilities for standardization, improved the organization of production, increased the Cooperative’s turnover and made this blessed region popular with visitors in the broader area.
Today the A.C Rachis Pierias “O AGIOS LOUKAS” numbers over 200 members while its orchard has been expanded to 2300 thousand sq. meters,of which 2000 are cultivated with cherry trees, 250 with apricots and the rest with apples.
The A.C Rachis Pierias “O AGIOS LOUKAS” maintains a state-of-the-art unit whose modern facilities ensure the preservation of the cherries’ fine quality and the excellent product standardization.
Hydrocooler: Hydrocooler has the ability to cool the cherries from the ambient temperature(20°C-40°C), which they have when coming from the fieldsto the facilities of the sorting unit. The hydrocooler has a capacity of 4 tons/hour.
Refrigeration Chambers: Today there are 6 refrigerator chambers, with capacity of 570 tons, which operate with glycol which is absolutely environmentally friendly. The glycol is cooled in the engine-room with the eco-Freon R507.
Calibration Machine: It has been installed in 2008 and it is actually an electronic calibration-machine by the Australian company GP Graders. The calibration-machine consists of 7 lines and has the ability to make electronic registration of cherries (with cameras) in size and color. The circulation of cherries in the line takes place with cold waters. In 2010 there was added a mechanical calibration-machine of the same company which increased the production rate from 2 to 4 ton per hour. This is how functions a standard and unique line in Greece and Europe that combines electronic and mechanical calibration machine with 14 outlets of products and 10 automatic weighing machines.
Strapping Machine: The products, after grading on size and color, are placed on pallets that are tied to the automatic strappingmachine and then forwarded to refrigeration chambers with electric pallet trucks and forklifts.
Washing Machine: Thegrowers harvest the fruits in branded plastic boxes they get from the Cooperative. Plastic boxes are washed and sanitized before and during harvesting.
Agricultural Pesticides Retailer: The cultivation of cherries, apricots and apples is controlled by the cooperative and the cultivation cares and sprays with nutrition are performed after the advice of the supervisor agronomist and technical consultant, who in cooperation with the Administrative Council and the producer-members propose and implement the best solutions for crop protection and nutrition of cherries. The formulations are supplied by the cooperative as a whole and their disposal to the members takes place via sms to qualify each application at the appropriate time, with appropriate weather conditions and appropriate preparation.
The aim of the Agricultural Cooperative Rachis Pierias “O AGIOS LOUKAS” is to ensure constant high product quality, continuous development of work and excellent customer service. The members are constantly investing in modern equipment for continuous quality development and better positioning of products in the market. Since 2004 the Cooperative implements an Integrated Management System and has been certified for this by TUV HELLAS. It implements quality systems at both cultivation and processing - standardization - conservation and marketing of products. The crop quality systems in cultivation are AGRO, GLOBAL G.A.P & GRASP for products and producers and ISO 22000 for the sorting unit.