TURLOCK, CALIF. — The Blue Diamond almond growers cooperative has broken ground on a new facility that initially will be 200,000 square feet. The three-phase project will eventually feature about 500,000 square feet of building space to process almonds, according to the company.

Phase one of the project is scheduled to be completed in May 2013. The second and third phases of the project are expected to take place over the next 15 years.

The company said it last made a major investment in a facility in 1968, when the state of the California was producing 148 million lbs of almonds.

“Compare that to this year's crop of about 2 billion lbs and you can better understand why we are making a major investment to expand our business,” said Mark Jansen, Blue Diamond president and chief executive officer. “We have kept pace with upgrading new technologies in our plant operations over the last 44 years, but today we are celebrating the largest single investment in the 102 years of the almond industry's existence. In fact, this year we will also complete a state of the art research and development complex at our headquarters in Sacramento.”