Consumers on emerging markets also want ripened fruit

One year ago, Greenyard planned new ripening chambers on location in Sint-Katelijne-Waver, Belgium. Cooling Service Holland, supplier of the chambers in Barendrecht, the Netherlands, was given the assignment to build 14 new cells. At the yellow doors of the ripening chambers on two storeys, Edwin Walstra and Gerard Slagter from Cooling Service Holland talk about the developments they’ve seen. Energy use plays a part in all projects. Besides, costs can be saved by producing and mixing the gas mixture of nitrogen and ethylene on location. 

Gerard points upward. On top of the ripening chambers is ‘the technology,’ or as Cooling Service Holland calls it: the TopTec. The air in the ripening chambers circulates and the entire process is driven by this TopTec. “An advantage of TopTec is that we build it prefab in our own workshop,” Gerard explains. Using a trailer or container, this part of the installation is brought to the construction location and assembled onto the cell. “We don’t assemble TopTec on location. This results in shorter construction times and it saves in costs,” Edwin adds. “Cooling Service Holland has been active in cooling techniques for more than 40 years, and for 25 years we’ve been the installers of complete banana and tropical fruit ripening chambers. We do this globally with our TopTec Ripe Technology, which we developed ourselves.”

Tipping ventilators
Edwin points out another advantage of the technique on top of the chamber: the technique can also be accessed when the chamber is filled with bananas. “Because of that, the customer is inconvenienced as little as possible when maintenance has to be carried out. We designed the TopTec for ripening bananas and exotics ourselves.” The largest energy use in ripening is because of the ventilators. The TopTec ventilator always turns the same way. 

“We tip the ventilators, creating a forward or reverse air flow,” Gerard explains. “That conserves energy. A right-turning ventilator that should be turning left will always have a lower yield, and therefore uses more energy.” One TopTec functions optimally with 26 pallets. The energy use of TopTec is between 80 and 90 watt per pallet. “Energy cost is becoming increasingly important,” Edwin says. “It’s about the total cost of ownership, so the costs of the investment and the cost of maintenance and the energy use for the duration.”

The entire system is driven by Proba software from VDH. “In cooperation with us, VDH’s Proba 5 system has been adjusted to our wishes,” Gerard says. “We added features for ripening, among other things.” The software can be read from a distance, and shows the ripening process at cell level. “We can see exactly how far along the ripening process is.” The automation in ripening is continuing. Besides systems being read from a distance, ten cells have been equipped with one ethylene sensor that registers air quality using a C2H4 Analyser. “The quality of the measurement is better than when a measurement is done for each separate cell.” Based on the results, it’s decided how much has to be adjusted.

Ripening exotics per pallet
Cooling Systems Holland BV and Cooling Service Holland are part of the same holding. The two companies focus on different markets. Cooling Service Holland serves the Dutch market, while Cooling Systems Holland BV builds ripening chambers across the border. Edwin talks about a number of projects: 45 ripening chambers for Bama in Oslo, Norway, 24 ripening chambers in Algiers, Algeria, and ripening chambers for 48 pallets, built on two levels, in Ireland. “We’re getting many new customers,” Edwin says. “After all, consumers in emerging markets want to get the same fruit as we have in the West.”

The company builds separate chambers, of six metres wide for example, for ripening exotics. That is necessary so that each pallet is accessible and can be removed from the chambers when the product is ripe. “Each pallet also has its own air supply, so that the ripening process can be set up per pallet,” Gerard says. The technique of ripening is comparable to the process of ripening bananas. “When you ripen bananas, all pallets are ripe or have the right colour at the same time,” Edwin explains. “When you ripen mangoes, avocados or other exotics, it differs per pallet more often.”

Dependent on season
The ripening process of exotics is decided by, among other things, the time of harvesting, the weather circumstances, and how far along the season is. Research and energy is also still put into that for bananas. Norwegian importer Bama, among others, is continually researching how the bananas finish ripening. “Ripening time is very important to them, because it takes them at least two days to drive to the north of the country, and the bananas then still have to taste and look good,” Edwin says. The distance from Oslo to the North is comparable to the distance from Utrecht to Spain.

And finally Edwin and Gerard say the ethylene-nitrogen generator can result in a considerable cost saving, especially for large ripening installations. With an ethylene-nitrogen generator, the ripening gas mixture is composed on location. “The advantage is that the ripening plant doesn’t have to buy bottles and pay rent.”The nitrogen for the mixture is extracted from the open air, which also results in cost saving. “The investment is larger, but the costs are quickly recovered,” Edwin concludes.

More information:
Cooling Service Holland
Gerard Slagter

Edwin Walstra

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