On November 1, Ed Pines of EIP Citrus Management, LLC received the Commissioner’s Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award for his environmental dedication and innovative techniques in the citrus industry.
A long-time citrus grower, Pines is no stranger to the challenges the industry is facing. In 2005 Huanglongbing (HLB), or commonly known as citrus greening, entered the state by way of Asian citrus psyllid. The psyllid is known to infect citrus trees causing severe damage to roots, ultimately leaving trees unable to produce as much fruit and causing fruit produced to become not only smaller, but bitter in taste. This disease devastated the citrus industry in Florida and by 2012 covered the state.
“One of the issues I had as a grower was looking at my employees and seeing them disheartened. They lost the shine in their eyes for citrus production,” Pines says of the challenging times the industry was facing. “Every time workers read the paper or drove by a grove, they saw fruit drop and trees looking weak. It became difficult. This is their job, they are your family. When you have a man working for you for 25 years and he is 50 years old, he is thinking ‘what is going to happen to me? I want to retire with the company but everything is downsizing,’” Pines said of the worry that citrus caretakers faced.
Pines saw this and knew something had to change. In 2014, Dr. Schumann at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science Citrus Research and Education Center began researching Citrus Under Protective Screens, or CUPS. Based on the research, this technique was being used in other countries to combat pests and diseases to crops. Pines decided to give the new technique a try and sought to build a CUPS structure of his own.
“Farm Credit has been an important part of this concept,” Pines says of his relationship with Farm Credit. “When we started, Chris Witmer, my friendly banker, and Shane Platt, who I've known for over 20 years came to the table and welcomed our ideas. They were extremely proactive in financing our operations. They understand our needs and see the future of it.”
Pines developed 20 acres of CUPS structures to trial this new technique on a commercial scale. Soon after the development of the structures, Hurricane Irma struck the state leaving extensive damage in its path. The destruction was so powerful it caused severe destruction to the CUPS.
“I have been lucky to work with a team at Farm Credit. They saw our heartbreak when our structures came down due to Hurricane Irma and our concern. Chris was in the field the next day,” Pines expresses of the response he received from Farm Credit after the damage. “Chris still visits often and they have been supportive.”
After the damage, Pines knew that the project must continue.
“I think in business you will have strong head tides but the difference is if you fall you have to get up and keep going.” Pines explains.
The project did continue. Pines collaborated with Dundee Citrus Growers about what he felt was the future of citrus. After discussing the research and the potential to save the Florida citrus industry, Dundee agreed that this was a progressive idea that could be bring a beneficial impact on the industry. Dundee quickly built compounds of CUPS structures similar to Pines’ original structure. Pines is a proud grower utilizing these CUPS structures and collaborates often with the other growers and Dundee.
The partnership Ed Pines and EIP Citrus Management, LLC has established with Dundee has led to environmental innovations for the industry. The CUPS structures provide a strong foundation to protect crops from the elements while monitoring soil-moisture, temperature, wind speed and water levels. In addition, the structures use less water as 25% less water evaporates from trees under screening than generally in the field. The structure’s screens block wind drifting of chemical products, resulting in less herbicide and insecticide use.
“This is the future of fresh fruit,” Pines announces.
Farm Credit congratulates Ed Pines for receiving the 2019 Commissioner’s Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award. We are strong supporters of the citrus industry and look forward to what innovations Ed Pines and other leaders will continue to bring as the industry evolves.