Domex Superfresh Growers marked the “launch” of its 2017 ‘Autumn Glory’ apple harvest by sending an ‘Autumn Glory’ apple into the stratosphere using an in-house, team-designed weather balloon system.
Domex Superfresh Growers CEO Robert Kershaw dreamed up the plan two years ago, and is proud that the project was managed entirely by Superfresh Growers team members.
“A fried chicken sandwich was recently lifted into the stratosphere on an outsourced balloon mission, and other apples have hitched ‘pay-to-fly’ rides on commercial rockets, but this project was executed entirely by our employees,” said Kershaw. “It is such a fun way to build company excitement, while introducing others to what we believe is a delicious and unique apple.”
Information Technology teammates and technology enthusiasts Steve Potter and Jeff Johnston led the project, which was documented by Media Manager Tyler Weinbender. Several other Superfresh employees participated in launch and recovery efforts.
The balloon voyage started in an ‘Autumn Glory’ apple orchard in Selah, WA, where an apple was harvested and placed directly onto the balloon’s payload platform. Two cameras documented the 75-mile trip, which reached an altitude of 116,000 feet and experienced temperatures of -77°F.
By design, the balloon ruptured at its apex and fell to earth under a parachute. Potter, Johnston and Weinbender, who followed the balloon’s path using an elaborate array of Ham radio and satellite equipment, then “enjoyed” a 14-mile hike – much of it in darkness over rough ground – to recover the apple, cameras and vehicle, near Dot, WA, a few miles north of the Columbia River.
“Science is about learning,” said Potter, “and one thing we learned is to bring along a company 4-wheeler next year!”