A Dutch cooling and climate specialist company, Nijssen BV, uses in-house developed monitoring software and works closely with fruit ripening companies to meet these companies' clients’ needs. “Each ripening company has its own way of working, and our extensive software facilitates that to the maximum,” says Nijssen’s Peter Huigsloot.
He sites easy-to-program ripening instructions, extensive reporting possibilities, and batch management as examples. For instance, standard ripening guidelines can be adapted in various ways as it suits the ripener. The fruit's ripening process’s progress in each room can be monitored at a glance, thanks to an image on a screen. Also, all setpoints can be quickly adjusted to alter the process.
When developing a ripening system, a lot of attention is paid to energy consumption, says Peter. For example, energy-efficient fans are adapted to increase power saving. Measuring the rooms’ CO2 quality can lead to additional energy conservation. “All fruit produces CO2, which then affects their ripening."
"When the CO2 concentration is too high in the ripening room, bananas can develop brown spots.” Increasing the aeration in the space’ can solve this issue. “By monitoring CO2 levels during the ripening process, aeration can be made to be more efficient, which then leads to lower power consumption,” explains Peter.
Using water as a coolant
Nijssen prefers using water as a coolant in banana ripening facilities. “Bananas are cooled to a temperature of no less than 12ºC. You can reach these temperatures using water.” The advantage of using water as a coolant is that it results in exact room temperatures. “Combined with stepless three-way valves, we can keep temperatures very constant," explains Peter.
"That is crucial because fluctuating temperatures mean the boxes also have different temperatures, while the ripening should be exactly the same across all the pallets. That is why precise temperature regulation and a high degree of temperature uniformity is so important in a fruit ripening facility.”
Nijssen provides most fruit ripening companies with a tarp system to, so, guarantee good air circulation. “A tarp generates forced air movement from outside the pallet to its center," Peter continues. "There, low air pressure is created, which is maintained by the tarp sealing the pallet. Good air circulation through all the boxes, in turn, makes for a constant temperature.”
This tarp systems also mean ripening rooms can be flexibly filled. Up to nine boxes can be stacked per pallet, and height differences in adjacent stacks also do not cause any problems. At the same time, fruit ripening facilities’ ethylene, CO2, and moisture levels are checked so at so closely monitor the bananas’ ripening process.
At Bakker Belgium too
Nijssen has applied these design choices at Bakker Belgium’s distribution center in the Belgian town of Boom. The banana ripening facility has pride of place at this center. Nijssen built 28 ripening rooms, each fit for holding 24 pallets of bananas. “For this project, we collaborated with a very experienced ripener,” admits Huigsloot. “Based on his years of experience, our programmers added several additional functionalities to the software.”
John van Veen, Bakker Belgium’s ripener, confirms this by saying, “For Bakker Belgium, together, we carefully considered how we could set up an optimal control system. On the one hand, it had to be user-friendly, and on the other, we wanted to provide our clients with top quality bananas. This tailormade software was developed and has specific settings for equalization, ripening, and fumigation. We are continually learning how to optimize the system, but are delighted with the result of this partnership.”