Agribusiness Club hosts produce-packed event for Otters

The Agribusiness Club at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) hosted logistics and supply chain C.H. Robinson and food and beverage subsidiary Robinson Fresh on Nov. 2. Transportation Manager Lauren Singh and Customer Group Manager Danny Goforth were the guest speakers for the club’s exciting and in-depth look into the agricultural industry and potential employment opportunities. 

Goforth was raised in the Salinas Valley, and he has worked with agriculture since middle school. Starting in packing houses and working from the ground up, Goforth went on to earn his undergraduate degree from Cal Poly in Agribusiness. 

Goforth oversees the vendor replenishment team. C.H. Robinson and Robinson Fresh are the biggest suppliers to nationwide grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s, as well as selling to Raley’s, Albertsons, SaveMart and a wide array of restaurants. 

Like Goforth, Singh comes from the Central Valley and has familial ties in agriculture. Beginning in nursing school at St. Mary’s college, Singh transferred into CSUMB after doing two years of science classes and realizing her passion for working in the industry after being placed in an agricultural service learning internship through CSUMB.

Singh has been with the Robinson companies for 13 years now. Managing the western region of transportation, Singh works closely with Goforth on the Trader Joe’s project and transporting supplies to other clients. 

“We have a presence in about 39 countries,” Singh said. “We are adding to that annually, and we have about 19 million shipments annually through C.H. Robinson.”

The Robinson companies have more than 75,000 carriers, a globally managed transportation management system and pulled in $16.2 billion in 2020 gross revenues. 

“We are constantly onboarding new carriers,” Singh said. “We do not own those assets. We are primarily a non-asset company, so we don’t heavily invest in assets.”

When it comes to selling, C.H. Robinson and Robinson Fresh enact a five-stop model:

  1. Find new customers and build relationships
  2. Win business
  3. Find carriers and build relationships
  4. Manage freight
  5. Manage and grow accounts

With more than 10 million square feet of refrigerated space available across the country, the ability to store produce is ready for the Robinson companies’ use through assets and third-party relationships nationwide where they may pay a service fee. 

C.H. Robinson has 120 distribution sites and 12,000 delivery locations a day. Additionally, C.H. Robinson manages six warehouses around the U.S.

“We source and grow a lot of different products,” Goforth said. “Unlike certain companies, based in geographic regions, we do everything from tropicals, to melons, to corn, to dry veg and we sell both food and retail for all of those categories.”

Robinson Fresh grows a variety of produce in the U.S. while also utilizing the climate in South America for yearlong product availability of apples, pears and grapes. Other key items Robinson Fresh focuses on providing for customers include asparagus, berries, citrus and greens. 

Recently, Robinson Fresh launched their consumer brand. In the past, they incorporated private labelling for stores such as Trader Joe’s and specific produce: melons and corn. Now, any consumer can walk into a store like Target and find Robinson Fresh’s own label and marketing. 

Committing to and encouraging sustainability is essential for Robinson Fresh. Investing in grower programs that support communities and reduce waste, recyclable and eco-friendly packaging and a 40 percent carbon reduction by 2025 are a few ways the company is helping preserve the environment.

Since the beginning of the pandemic until now, there have been supply and carrier problems plaguing the nation.

An overwhelming number of cargo ships have been stuck at ports, specifically down in the Los Angeles and Long Beach areas, leaving vessels to wait months at a time before unloading. This problem has been recognized by C.H. Robinson and the negative impact on processing supplies.

“One ocean vessel carrier carries about 3,200 truckloads,” Singh said. “We have a truck shortage and a truck driver shortage in the U.S. so even if the ports are open 24/7, it’s going to take a lot of other dynamics to get the vessels unloaded faster and the goods into the U.S.”

Along with the limited access to efficiently dock and unload the cargo ships, the pandemic has caused an increase in the number of people cooking at home versus dining in. 54 percent of shoppers have used an online app to purchase groceries for the first time, and there has been a 300 percent increase of consumer food spending from out-of-home to in-home. 

Otters looking for an internship with C.H. Robinson and Robinson Fresh are encouraged to reach out to Principal Recruiter Amy Vanderwel at [email protected]

Join the Agribusiness Club’s next event on Nov. 16 for a Produce Marketing Association: Center for Growing Talent (CGT) and The Career Pathways Visual Certificate Program with guest speaker CGT by PMA Program Manager Barbara Hochman.  

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