Optimising storage rooms for pears would considerably increase product quality and lower energy consumption. This is the conclusion of research commissioned by GreenPort Noord-Holland Noord and carried out by Wageningen UR. The project, which involved several parties in the chain, led to innovations and insights that will help the fruit sector to enhance its competitive position.
The researchers worked closely with seven SME companies to improve five aspects of the storage rooms. They tested a prototype for a evaporator that can save up to 70% on ventilator energy and reduce moisture loss from the pears. In addition, the partners came up with a simple method for optimising the air distribution in the refrigeration room, thereby improving the conditions for fruit stored directly behind the door. Another part of the project involved developing a fruit controller to provide information about air circulation in the cell. The thermostat, which has been on the market since 2014, makes it possible to accurately control the climate inside the cell (and therefore storage quality). The project also provides valuable information for developing innovative sensors to detect rotting, and gives concrete leads for further work on optimising the CO2 scrubber system, which filters carbon dioxide from the air.
“We estimate that all these improvements will reduce moisture loss in long-term pear storage by 20%. Energy consumption can be reduced to 0.15 kWh per ton per day, which means that energy costs will be some 50% below the national average”, says Jan-Willem van der Klugt, project leader at GreenPort Noord-Holland Noord, which acts as secretary for the project. “Growers can store their pears for longer with less spoilage, giving them more flexibility in the choice of sales outlets and the moment at which they sell. In turn, it increases their bargaining power when setting prices and enhances their international competitive position.”
“We looked at storage cells from various different viewpoints; growers, refrigeration room specialists and sensor developers. As a result, our solutions complement and enhance each other”, says Matthijs Montsma, post-harvest technology scientist at Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research and research project leader. “This collaboration proves that a multidisciplinary approach works.” The companies working alongside Wageningen UR and GreenPort Noord-Holland Noord on the project were: Environmental Monitoring Systems (EMS), fruit growers Fa. J&W Kuin, VDH Control, Koelhuis WFO, Salco BV, Van Amerongen CA Technology and Van Kempen Koudetechniek.
Evaporator, sensors, scrubber system
The project will be continued in various ways. Food & Biobased Research, a Dutch refrigerator manufacturer, Van Kempen Koudetechniek and ULO storage facility Koelhuis WFO from Noord-Holland will set up a pilot study to optimise the prototype of the low-energy evaporator and prepare the device for the market. Furthermore, follow-up research focusing on sensors to detect rotting and redesign the CO2 scrubber system will start this year under the GreenPort Noord-Holland Noord flag, partly funded by an EFRO grant secured by Agrivizier.
IPC project Duurzaam bewaren van Agriproducten
The research project that has just been completed is part of the Innovation Performance Contracts (IPC) project Duurzaam bewaren van Agriproducten [‘Sustainable Storage of Agriproducts’] (2012-2014), which involves a total of 11 SME companies. Another research line in the same project focuses on vacuum drying flower bulbs.