Local biofuel company suffers from pandemic impacts

Biofuel company Edeniq downsizes plant, lab due to market declines driven by COVID-19

VISALIA – While some local industries have suffered because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a company that has suffered greatly is long time fixture to the Visalia Industrial Park, Edeniq.

The biofuel company made the decision to cut ties with its large lab and production space at 2505 N. Shirk and downsize to their new smaller location is at 6910 W. Pershing, says company Vice President Dan Michalopoulos.

Their old location is for lease and its equipment has been sold off. The company has been in operation in Visalia since 2008.

The Visalia operation employed 50 but now they are down to 10 he says. Low gasoline and ethanol prices, made worse by the COVID-19 shutdown, have hurt the company sales of patented products and technology aimed at biofuel producers but “we’re still operating” says Michalopoulos. The focus is on the process to make cellulosic ethanol with a low carbon rating.

Low carbon fuels can be rewarded in the marketplace by state and federal credits to promote cleaner biofuels from corn fiber. But with many ethanol plants shuttered earlier this year nationally and in California, their customers were not buying. Edeniq closed their Nebraska office in December.

AFP adds warehousing in Visalia in new building

The French-owned company, Advanced Food Products (AFP) is relocating its warehouse from 900 Plaza Dr. to a larger space in the new industrial park building at Plaza and Riggin: 2025 N Plaza. The 255,000-square foot building is just being completed now.

Despite COVID-19 worldwide, AFP is enjoying a surge in consumer demand. Non refrigerated “aseptic” products are “flying off the shelves” says one company source increasing the need for warehouse space. AFP makes packaged cheeses, sauces, puddings as well as Anderson Pea Soup in Visalia. Their plant, the former Real Fresh facility on Noble Avenue and Ben Maddox, lacks room for warehousing.  The company used to be called Bongrain but changed it to Savencia Fromage & Dairy.

Calls to management were not returned.

Food items that are aseptically packaged can stay fresh for six months or longer without preservatives. Manufacturers carry out specialized processes to sterilize contents and contain separately. They are then combined in a sterile environment to prevent contamination by microorganisms. The demand for aseptic packaging solutions in the food and beverage sector has increased because of the rise in demand for packaged food.

Concerns over COVID-19 may be increasing demand for packaged food with a long shelf life to avoid frequent shopping while buying certain categories and packaging types like UHT products in heat-treated aseptic packaging that is sterile.

As for the Visalia Industrial Park, new space is being filled even in a worldwide pandemic.  Fresno’s Diversified Development Group (DDG) built a 244,280-square foot concrete tilt-up building at 2520 N. Plaza Dr. and a second 120,000-square foot building next door at 9105 W. Riggin Ave. this winter. Both are located at the southeast corner of Riggin and Plaza. The site is across the street from the huge 450,000-square foot United Parcel Service hub under construction and nearing completion.

On the same piece of dirt, DDG plans two more buildings, 188,400 square feet and 144,000 square feet, all clustered on 35 acres.

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