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"Marc Hofman, Arco: "Ripening cells increasing"

Use of natural cooling agents in fruit and vegetable sector increases

Arco cooling techniques has been active for 27 years and is specialised in industrial cooling, climatisation and air conditioning. The fruit and vegetable sector has become increasingly important for Arco over the course of the years. Their customers are mainly importers from the European Centre in Brussels. Arco also serves various other sectors and cools products like meat, fish, baking products and medicines. "Really any products that need cooled," says Marc Hofman, who, along with Bob Cluckers, is responsible for the customers from the fruit and vegetable sector. 

Natural cooling agents

Arco has a team of 90 employees and is located in Lokeren and Geel. An important development in recent years is the increasing demand for energy efficient and ecological cooling," explains Marc. "A lot of companies cooled with cooling agents containing chlorine like R22, but this is being regulated more in Europe. The cooling agent R22 will be allowed until the end of the year. Other types are permitted until 2020 and over the course of the years even more cooling agents will be banned by Europe. We therefore advise our customers to use natural cooling agents such as ammonia-glycol or to choose a CO2 installation. Future orientated companies are catching on to this and so want to move to these energy efficient coolers."

Example of an investment in Ringoot Fruit
One of the newest energy efficient installations was recently installed at Ringoot Fruit, which owns various warehouses in the import centre. "They switched completely to an ammonia-glycol installation." According to Marc the installations of this energy efficient cooling will increase over the course of the years. "The use of freon is being phased out, so companies have to choose. Some choose certain cooling agents than can still be used for a while, which still contain HFKs, but with a permitted GWP value. Others immediately make a long term switch that they won't have to worry about. Of course, there is a difference in costs, a new energy efficient cooling system is a bigger investment than some adaptations to the existing system."

Marc indicates that companies can opt for Arco to keep an eye on the entire cooling, including maintenance. "With the full package the customer can fully focus on their core business and don't have to worry about the cooling. We also have a service that is available and active 24/7. We also believe it is important that we can connect customers' systems from a distance. Temperatures are constantly registered and if there's something wrong we can act immediately. We know what we're doing. Our staff is well trained and retrained when needed. We also have our own study service who tests everything and researches the effects of new systems."

Fruit and vegetable sector
What he says is striking in the fruit and vegetable sector is that the laws concerning cooling have become stricter in recent years. "In other branches, such as fish, there have been certain rules for a while. We already had experience in the other sectors and could apply this to the fruit and vegetable sector." He has seen an increase in the demand for ripening cells over the last few years. "It used to just be bananas that were ripened, but products like avocados and mangos are being added to this. It's really on the rise, more and more supermarkets want ripened fruit. You immediately think of heat when ripening, but the products eventually give off their own heat, so there has to be a good ratio between heating and cooling. We collaborate with a Dutch firm who supplies tarpaulins and humidifiers for ripening cells systems." For the fruit and vegetable sector space is money. "Pallets of bananas used to be next to each other with a tarpaulin over them, but now they're stacked four high. More volume on the same square metre." 


Arco is active all over the world. "But we only supply to Belgium in the fruit and vegetable sector. We see chances in Sint-Katelijne-Waver as well as Brussels. We may be able to serve more fruit and vegetable companies abroad in the future." He expects that it will mainly be large companies that will invest in energy efficient cooling. It's often still too big an investment for smaller companies. Standards often have to be adapted in cooling, and companies play into this. You used to see a lot of products in one cooling, but now there are more separate. This is mainly due to the standards Europe enforces."

For more information:
Marc Hofman
Arco NV
Brandstraat 20
Industriepark E17-3022
9160 Lokeren
Tel. : +32 9 349 05 46
Fax : +32 9 349 06 10