Pouliquen - Caisse choux-fleurs frais Négoce Export - Station Vilar Gren -

Fresh cauliflower: traceability from field to truck

Year after year, cauliflower remains a favourite winter food. Following our blog article about a cauliflower grower, we invite you to trace the movements of a cauliflower through Prince de Bretagne’s largest logistics centre, Vilar Gren, in Saint Pol-de-Léon, Finistère. Since January 2021, this 7-hectare station has been receiving, checking, preparing and shipping most of the fresh vegetables produced by the Northern Finistère growers of the Saint-Pol-de-Léon SICA co-op. This modern shared facility is at the cutting edge of fresh vegetable quality control and traceability. It was time to head to Saint-Pol to meet with scheduling manager Sébastien Saliou.

We met Sébastien in his office next to the dedicated unloading docks. “This is where we collect all the market information: the volume of products packed on farms or on packing station lines, distributors’ orders, etc. Our department is responsible for ensuring coherence between the market, the distributors and the growers for every product. The right amount of the right product has to get to the right customer on time. This is the control tower for the whole system.”

Vilar Gren: one station to centralise the merchandise

Right beside the scheduling department, the inter-site transfer department handles the collection and delivery to Vilar Gren of products from other SICA stations located from the Brest area to Plougasnou on the Bay of Morlaix. Growers deliver their produce to these stations, which were maintained as collection points after Vilar Gren began operations. Today, 80 % of the vegetables harvested by SICA growers are delivered to Vilar Gren, either directly by co-op members or through a shuttle service.
“Cauliflower growers pack the vegetables directly in the field and deliver them according to the requirements of the packing station.
Bringing the vegetables to a single site enables us to centralise most of the produce at the Vilar Gren station. The entire logistics system is based here. This makes us more efficient, with full or multi-product truckloads leaving directly from here, rather than distributors’ trucks having to make the rounds of different stations. This keeps logistics costs down.”

Traceability at Vilar Gren: a cutting-edge packing facility

The construction of this new packing station was motivated by the desire of SICA directors to have a more efficient facility that would better respond to market needs. This objective was achieved with IFS Food certification.
“We also have a powerful IT system that makes it possible to carry out real-time product traceability. Distributors can locate their merchandise on the site at any point in time and follow its progress. This avoids having people having to go back and forth, which is a real time-saver.”

Fresh cauliflower quality and conformity

After telling us about the station and explaining how it works, Sébastien took us on a tour of the site. We began with the unloading dock. Even this early on a February morning, several producers were already delivering their vegetables, among them some lovely, fresh cauliflowers. Before entering the station, produce is checked to ensure its conformity. The size of the cauliflower, its calibre, the colour of the florets and quality of the leaves: every aspect is checked.
“Agréa is the independent organisation responsible for making sure that the products delivered conform to specifications. Growers are free to determine the grade of their vegetables. They declare their volume and the desired grade through a mobile application. If Agréa approves the grading, the products go on to the next stage. If not, the grower is called back and can either sort their produce so that it meets the specifications of the grade declared, or downgrade it.”

Fresh cauliflower processing: no room for improvisation

Once the produce has been received, the pallets are labelled. Every detail is noted: the type of product and its calibre, grade and origin. Before entering the facility, the forklift operator attaches a second tag to the merchandise, indicating which client the produce is for, the date and hour it became available, and the order and transaction numbers.
“At every stage of its movement through the station, this label, which has a QR code, is scanned. Each time, the information is saved in the ERP system. It’s this process that enables Pouliquen staff to track merchandise in real time.”
“Cauliflower can take one of two paths through the facility, depending on the customer’s request. If they’re to be shipped immediately, the vegetables are put on the distributors’ loading docks. If they’re to be shipped later, they’re put into moist cold storage for 12 hours. This cools the vegetables right through. It really comes in handy when temperatures are warmer than they are today, and extends produce freshness.”

Ready to ship!

Cauliflower processing is relatively simple, as growers take care of packing directly in the field. For other vegetables like tomatoes or broccoli, dedicated packing lines have been created at Vilar Gren.
As for us, our tour ended in the loading area, where each of the fifteen largest Prince de Bretagne distributors—including Pouliquen—has their own loading dock.
As the morning progressed, lines of pallets were forming on the docks, awaiting shipment to their destinations.


Der Weg unseres frischen Blumenkohls in Bildern :

Pouliquen - Récolte de choux-fleurs au champ - Cléder (29), février 2024
Cauliflower harvest, in Cléder, just a few metres from the Pouliquen headquarters
Pouliquen, légumes frais de Bretagne, caisses de choux-fleurs frais, prêtes pour l'expédition - Sation Vilar Gren, Saint-Pol-de-Léon (29)
Crates of cauliflowers waiting to be loaded, Vilar Gren station
Pouliquen - Déchargement des tracteurs des producteurs - Station Vilar Gren - Sica Saint-Pol-de-Léon - Prince de Bretagne - Février 2024
Unloading of cauliflowers by the growers, at the Vilar Gren station
Pouliquen - caisses de choux-fleurs frais - Station Vilar Gren Prince de Bretagne - Saint-Pol-de-Léon - Février 2024
Box of fresh cauliflower Prince de Bretagne
Pouliquen-legumes frais de Bretagne-palettes-choux-fleurs-frais-prêtes-pour-expedition-export
Pallets of cauliflowers, ready for despatch
Pouliquen - Sébastien Saliou - Responsable ordonnancement - Station Vilar Gren - Sica Saint-Pol-de-Léon - Février 2024
Sébastien Saliou, Head of Sales Planning at Sica, presents the map of the Vilar Gren station