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Jan van der Spek: "Our onions have never been this dry in this period"

Ajuin opts for non weather dependent condensing dryer in new onion storage

Over the last year onion sorting and packaging station Ajuin from Moerkapelle has expanded its location with a new 1.250 m2 warehouse, with a capacity to store 2,000 tonnes of onions in boxes. The company, belonging to the brothers Johan, Paul and Jan van der Spek, opted for the installation of three VaccTeks by AgroVent, after having seen this storage technique in action in Denmark. The VaccTeks have been built into the back wall of the box storage. Jan van der Spek is enthusiastic about the technique. "Our onions have never been this dry in this period."

Only four people work full time at Ajuin and the company is adapted to it. "We couldn't do this if we were to export ourselves, as this means that someone always has to be in the office. We focus on storing, sorting and packaging and foresee exporters of yellow, red and organic onions in packaging, varying from 1 kilo to big bags," says Jan. He believes working with a few staff in a family company is a big advantage. "It makes us flexible. If we can't make any money, we keep calm and when it's busy we work harder."

The VaccTek technique allows the onions to dry independently from the weather. Condensation drying isn't a new technique, but Agrovent was the first to succeed in making it widely applicable in the storage of potatoes and onions. "The importance of being able to dry onions well is becoming increasingly clear each season. A wetter and warmer climate and the reduction of chemicals is making it more and more difficult to store onions with as little rot and loss as possible. Essential to this is heating the air used to dry the product, which is currently mainly done with gas heaters," says Huub Kasius of AgroVent.

"But using gas to heat has some downsides. First of all it's expensive. For good suppression of fungus and bacteria you ideally want to dry at temperature of 30 degrees or more. Due to the costs, a lot of people work with a maximum of 20 degrees, which isn't high enough for red onions, for instance. Burning gas adds moisture to the warehouse. Every kilogram of gas burned produces 1.6 kg of water. The warm, slightly moist air can cause extra condensation or moisture spots in the boxes. Almost 10% of the gas usage is needed to remove the water created by burning. It is also inefficient, as a lot of the valuable heat leaves through the shutters. The drying result is also strongly influenced by outside air conditions," continues Huub.

The VaccTek technique has found a solution to this, which created a completely new manner of drying and storing. Independent from the outside air and without using gas drying times are achieved that are 50% shorter and use up to 80% less energy. "It makes your company more secure and results in maintaining quality. In the harvest season in particular we can now dry the onions much more quickly. In past years the onions occasionally came from the land at a temperature of 20-25 degrees and with an air humidity of 90%. Now we can dry it at full speed without gas," says Jan van der Spek.

The result of the VaccTeks also also very directly visible, as the water flows away under wet conditions. "With VaccTek up to 160 litres of water per hour can be drained away," says Jan. He sees it as a big advantage that it is a completely integrated system. "We don't use many refrigerants. Storage is still controlled and regulated with the storage computer, which allows for maximal control. We also fully use the heat of the condensation. All energy that is released is used to heat the onions."

"We also store an increasing volume of organic onions. Storage is even tighter for organic onions and we are already seeing it limit our drop out. We can dry out the rotten onions, for instance. In other years it was difficult to dry properly after a dry October and wet November. Now the door closes and it dries rapidly. It has a price tag, but I believe it's the future," concludes Jan.

For more information:
Jan van der Spek
Julianastraat 114
2751 GA Moerkapelle
0031 (0) 79 593 3338

Agrovent B.V.
Gildenweg 18
8304 BC Emmeloord
T +31 (0)527 636 150

Publication date: 10/12/2017


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