The first underground warehouse for the storing of apples in a controlled atmosphere was shown to a delegation of journalists on 21st November 2014. 

Michele Odorizzi, chairman of Melinda, welcomed journalists.

Everything started a few years ago, when Melinda talked to its partners about the need to invest in new warehouses to store the increase production expected by 2020. A suggestion was made to start using a quarry in Val di Non.

Above: Luca Granata accompanies the press to visit the quarry. Below: one of the "sample" galleries excavated by the Tassullo company. They cover 80 hectares on 3 levels and are 15 m wide, 50 m high and 17 km long. Tassullo created galleries specifically for Melinda's needs. 

A series of preliminary studies showed that it was feasible and the first 120 ton unit was created in 2012. The first pilot plant was then initiated.

Access to the pilot plant..

The first underground warehouse

The warehouse is located 275 m below ground. The average temperature is of 10°C and it can store 10,500 tons (1,050 wagons). It is divided into 12 units for a total of 33,870 bins. Each unit is 25m long, 12m wide, 11m high and it can hold 880 tons of produce. The structure is accessed through a 150 m long corridor. 

Fruit is stored at 1°C in a controlled atmosphere. Internal parameters are constantly monitored. Units are made without using artificial insulating material and they are gas-proof thanks to special products created specifically by Tassullo.

Above: the underground structure today. Below: how the structure will develop in the next 3-5 years.

The characteristics of the site

The geological features of the site are quite unique - it is dolomite rock formed between 170 and 150 million years ago, which is very compact and resistant. The layer is completely dry, thanks to the fact that above it there are younger rocks which were formed between 130 and 55 million years ago and that are rich in clay, so they have a waterproofing quality.

The opening on the western side is the result of a fracture that occurred 20 million years ago and which led to the collection of water, so now there is a layer of pure fossil water that can be used.

The water is only 10°C and so manages to cool the units, leading to considerable energy savings.

Cooling plants.

Thanks to their 2800 kg per square metre and natural temperature of only 10°C, the caves are a perfect natural insulation with thermal properties that improve over time.

Above and below: underground storage units.

This means it uses 70% less energy than conventional systems and 80% less electricity than normal fridges.

One of the units was opened during the visit. Below, Franco Paoli, director of the Melinda processing department.

Using underground caves also meant saving 850 tons of artificial insulation, significantly reducing the environmental footprint of the structure.

Luca Granata answered the questions of journalists.

The new warehouse is equipped with state-of-the-art technology in terms of safety. The absence of insulating material reduces the risk of fire and maintenance costs are lower.

Michele Odorizzi in front of the apple drawings on the walls of the warehouse.

This solution also eliminated the need for 10,000 square metres of warehouses above-ground, so the land could be left to the local community.

The entire structure is located underground. Only the access and loading structures are below grand.

The pipes feeding the cooling system run along the ceiling. Apples are currently moved by trucks, but in the future the procedure will be automated. 

Luca Granata also added that "40,000 guests visit our store Mondo Melinda every year. They could also visit our underground facility making us and our product more popular.