The once-thriving asparagus-growing industry in the Pacific Northwest faces an uncertain future after the recent closure of the last remaining canning plant in Washington state.

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The once-thriving asparagus-growing industry in the Pacific Northwest faces an uncertain future after the recent closure of the last remaining canning plant in Washington state. The closure effectively ends the state’s processed-asparagus industry, leaving growers scrambling to find a new market for their crops.




The 2005 harvest has been estimated at nearly 50 million pounds. As much as half of that was canned at the Seneca Foods plant in Dayton, Columbia County, about 120 miles east of Yakima. Last year, the company cut back operations and announced its plans to shut down the 70-year-old cannery permanently. The news followed the closure of a Del Monte Foods plant in 2003. The canning work has moved to cheaper plants in Peru.




Growers who had contracted to sell asparagus to Seneca likely will be forced to risk depressing prices by adding their crop to the fresh market — or switch crops altogether.



SearchMarketing



ChannelAdvisor buying Seattle firm




Seattle-based SearchMarketing said it is being acquired by ChannelAdvisor, an online channel technology company in Research Triangle Park, N.C. SearchMarketing was founded in 1999 and helps retail customers get listed and advertise on search engines. SearchMarketing’s 10 employees will remain in Seattle and work for ChannelAdvisor.



Microsoft



Digital-media keyboards unveiled




Microsoft is debuting two keyboards today that it says it designed for digital media in the living room and office.




One keyboard works with the Windows XP Media Center Edition PC and can act as a television remote control and a mouse. The keyboard is wireless and backlit.




The other keyboard comes with a mouse and photo-editing software and features buttons that, with one click, allow a user to edit, send and print digital photos. The mouse also has a magnification tool.




Both products are expected to go on sale later this summer for about $105 each.




Airbus



Siemens to provide satellite technology




Airbus is joining Siemens to create a satellite-based phone-and-data network that will compete with Boeing’s in-flight Internet service.




Siemens has signed an agreement with Airbus to provide the technology for the system, the Munich-based engineering company said yesterday. Toulouse, France-based Airbus will integrate, maintain and market the system, which will be available next year.




The system will allow passengers on Airbus planes to use mobile phones as well as send and receive wireless data from personal computers via satellite. Boeing’s Connexion unit, which began providing satellite-based Internet access to airlines last year, also plans to offer phone service to its airline customers when regulators permit it.




Cellular phones are currently banned on commercial airlines because of concern that handsets may interfere with other aircraft systems.




Compiled from The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and Seattle Times business staff.