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VOS technics specializes in ammonia cooling installations

"Cooling with natural refrigerants is the only future"

VOS technics is a family business of 29 years, located in the Belgian province of Limburg. The company mainly operates in the fruit sector and specializes in cooling, heating and power management. "We know what cooling is and how to cool in the best possible way," says Kristof Onckelinx, who owns the company with his brother. "We work here with 24 people: a dynamic and motivated team. That is one of our strengths."

Complete package
He goes on to say: "Working in a family enterprise means you can move very fast and that you're flexible. And that suits the fruit sector well, where decisions are often made at the last moment." Another aspect through which VOS stands out, is the fact that they offer a complete package. "You don't hear that a lot in this sector. We handle panel construction, gas monitoring and cooling. We build chambers to store fruit or other perishable goods. In addition, we take care of the CA technologies, which are inspected and controlled according to specific procedures, and of course our core business, cooling. We keep everything in one project, to align all the techniques to each other. This is also useful for the client, because we are one contact point. Great synergy can be achieved by aligning all these processes." So VOS technics actually has three companies in one. "That's also a challenge, of course, because all-round technicians don't exist. That's why we do work with partners, but we make sure that we have the products made in such a way that they can be integrated into our systems. That way, we can also create a project very specifically per customer. We think along their lines and respond to their needs and requirements. We do more than just supplying a product."


The clients served by VOS technics are mostly located in Belgium. "We mainly focus on Belgium, and occasionally do projects for other countries. We supply to a lot of auctions, many fruit growers, and vegetable or potato growers as well. We're seeing growers being more managers than fruit farmers these days. They scale risks, take profits into account and think about the long term." He does notice when the sector is having a hard time though. "Especially when suddenly something like the Russian boycott occurs. Everyone is a bit more reluctant to spend money then, but investments are handled in a more healthy way. I would also prefer not to do a project, rather than a project where we have to stop halfway, or one that's not paid for. Despite the difficult year for fruit growers, the sector recovered well." There has also been an increase in scale in recent years. "Professional companies certainly want to invest. So far, we've supplied about 4,000 coolers already."

VOS technics has specialized in making ammonia installations for 15 years now. "Cooling installations can be equipped with various refrigerants, both synthetic and natural. We mainly supply installations with natural refrigerants, because that's the future. We pretty much opened up the market in 2000. With well thought out engineering and a clever choice of components, we were able to apply the natural refrigerant in a profitable manner in smaller cooling installations as well, typically 150 kW to 300 kW cooling power. So far, we have built around 40 installations already." He notes that especially in the early years, it took some effort to convince companies to go with ammonia. "Now though, we're all a bit more convinced that we need to look after our environment, fortunately. In addition, when the energy use and maintenance costs are calculated, the economic assessment also quickly points to a cooling installation with a natural refrigerant."

Prefab containers
The company also build a lot of prefab containers. "That share has grown strongly in recent years. We will build an engine room in a 40-foot container, and that's how it's installed at the clients. Before it's shipped, we can prepare and test everything here on location." For clients, a container also has a lot of benefits. "A room doesn't have to be sacrificed, and the time to build on site is limited to a minimum. It allows us to assemble and start the cooling installation just in time. A late decider, delays in construction of the company building. No problem," Kristof says, laughing.

First hydrocooler

In 2013, VOS technics was the first Belgian company to successfully supply a hydrocooler for cherries, which atomizes ice water over the cherries, and brings down their core temperature to 3° C in less than 10 minutes. "Our hydrocooler cools the cherries before sorting, which means the cherries don't just stay prettier and tighter, but also extends their shelf life by a few weeks." The cherry cultivation is improving in Limburg, and with it also the demand for cherry cooling. He explains that a cherry cooler is really a big beer cooler, although much more refined. "We make sure that the water flow and the filter's mesh don't damage the cherries. It's a sensitive product, and a lot of time and field work goes into it, but we are happy to research these details. Cherries with hydrocooling are seeing increasing demand, in trade as well. It provides a nice added value, and we're expecting to grow further in this aspect."

Energy efficient
"These days, doing business is very different from ten years ago. Every project needs to be looked at individually, and that's also one of our core values. It sounds clichéd, but it's true. We keep thinking along with the client, also in terms of energy. We make provisions and show the possibilities of heat recovery. Many clients are surprised at the things that can be heated by such a large cooling installation. It's all free energy, so why wouldn't you use it? It's great to realize complete projects like that."

For more information:
Kristof Onckelinx
Vos Technics
Industrieweg 1150
3540 Herk-de-stad
Tel: +32- 13355930

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