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Research proves ideal transport conditions for potatoes
In the export of potatoes, there are many different ways to of setting up reefer containers, and each expert has his own vision. But only a few wonder why a certain set-up is chosen. Agroplant did ask that question. The answer could not be given in just one sentence.
“There are so many discussions about the best set-up for the containers,” says Joris van der Lee from Agroplant. “Everyone has a different opinion about the ideal set-up.” The opinions of various, independent experts were even so far apart that Agroplant started asking: what is actually the correct set up? “We spoke to many colleagues and everyone choses a certain set-up because they have always done so. When asked why, there often wasn’t an answer.”
Many questions, no answers
Agroplant indirectly came into contact with Leo Lukasse from Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, part of Wageningen University & Research. The researcher found out that most companies involved don’t really know why a certain set up was chosen. “I think that’s interesting. As long as it’s going well, exporters don’t really wonder why they’re doing something.” Agroplant is the exception in that. The question put to Leo by the company was asked even though there weren’t any problems. “We often see exporters start asking questions when there are problems, but that wasn’t the case with this project,” Leo says.
After an introductory conversation, the research question was specified to ventilation of the containers. “There was much obscurity and many questions. We decided to first look at the ventilation of the containers.” The first step was deciding how high the concentration of various gases could be without influencing the product. For fresh produce, it concerns two gases: ethylene and CO2. The first plays no role for potatoes, but the second one is decisive.
Data-loggers among seed potatoes
The research started with a literary study. As long as the concentration of CO2 remains below 0.4 per cent in the container, the seed potatoes will do well. That was the first conclusion of the research. A calculation followed to decide the ventilation needed to meet this norm. This was determined to be 25 cubic an hour. After this more theoretical research, a field test followed.
“We placed data-loggers in two containers with potatoes for Egypt,” Joris says. The containers were set to a ventilation of 25 cubic an hour, and placed on transport to the buyer in Egypt. With that, data was gathered during the transport. The Egyptian buyer returned the data-loggers, after which Leo could analyse the data. “It went very well,” Leo says. “We’ve concluded that this is a good amount of ventilation, you don’t need to ventilate any more.”
But there are other factors that could also have influence on the quality of the potatoes during transport, such as temperature and atmospheric humidity. To also find an answer to these questions, follow-up research is needed. That research was started two years ago. The duration of the research is set to three years, to gather plenty of data. Besides Agroplant, a wider basis was looked for, and found, within the sector.
Jan Gottschall, secretary for NAO, coordinates the follow-up project titled ‘Optimisation of potato transport in cooling containers.’ The participating companies are Agroplant, Foodcareplus, J.P. Beemsterboer Food Traders, IPM Ltd, Kleinjans Aardappelhandel and Tolsma Techniek Emmeloord. The implementation of the project is done by Wageningen Food & Biobased Research.
Wageningen University & Research
Joris van der Lee
Joris van der Lee
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