Domex Superfresh Growers' Autumn Glory Apples Head Back to Space
YAKIMA, WA - Domex Superfresh Growers® is taking the “launch” of its 2018 Autumn Glory® apple season literally—propelling the apple to new heights by actually lofting an apple into the stratosphere aboard a weather balloon.
“We originally pursued this project to have some fun and generate a little publicity for Autumn Glory apple,” CEO Robert Kershaw said, in a press release. “Customers and friends really enjoyed watching the video last year and learning about the creativity and energy of our team. This year the team took it to another level by involving kids in our community who are passionate about science and will someday be leaders in agriculture, which increasingly relies on technology and the people who operate it.”
This marks the second consecutive year that Superfresh Growers has launched its season in this fashion. Kershaw first conceived the project three years ago when he “discovered the skills and passion for such an adventure within the company.”
Information Technology teammates and tech enthusiasts Steve Potter and Jeff Johnston led the project for its second straight year—with the help of several members of the Superfresh team who participated in the launch and recovery effort.
“As with this balloon, it has been fun to watch the trajectory of Autumn Glory apple,” explains Kershaw. “Demand grew dramatically again last season, and this year continues to compound.” He added playfully, “The balloon adventures certainly play a big role in this, but I hate to break it to the launch team that the apple’s unique flavors—hints of cinnamon and subtle caramel notes—are probably what keep consumers and retailers returning for the apple.”
Team members designed and built the balloon system—with the help of students from three local programs focused on science and technology: Wide Hollow Elementary School’s Program for Advanced Learning; third-grade classes from East Valley and Wide Hollow elementary schools; a first grade class from Ahtanum elementary and the Yakima Valley Technological Skills Center (YV-TECH).
“A large part of what drives these projects is the involvement with schools,” said Johnston. “We want kids to see what is possible with technology today so they will be inspired to explore the technologies of tomorrow.”
Elementary school students learned about weather balloons and Earth’s complex atmosphere. They decorated the payload box with artwork and photos. Eli Potter, a student from Wide Hollow, narrated the launch to students in the classrooms via a livestream he set up himself, and students from YV-TECH were on hand to film the balloon release using a drone-mounted camera.
The cosmos-bound Autumn Glory began its voyage in an apple orchard in Selah, Washington. Two cameras documented the 28-mile trip. The balloon reached an altitude of 105,377.3 feet and experienced temperatures of -53 degrees Celsius before rupturing at the apex of its flight and drifting to earth under a parachute. Potter, Johnston, and Kershaw, who followed the balloon’s path using an elaborate array of HAM radio and satellite equipment, reportedly had a much easier time recovering the apple, cameras, and vehicle this year.
Watch Domex Superfresh Growers' video documentation of the flight here.