Dutch firm rolls out innovative mobile cooling technology
Exporters of temperature-sensitive fresh produce could now have a new mobile pre-cooling unit at their disposal that offers a flexible and energy-efficient solution for achieving extended shelf-life, according to ripening room specialist BG Door International.
Managing director Jan van Kessel told www.freshfruitportal.com the group’s latest innovation is designed for products that need to be cooled fast, such as berries and lettuce, and is even used by one customer to dry out the delicate leaves on physalis.
"Our Mobile Pre-Cool Unit brings down the temperature of the product quickly," Van Kessel explained.
"Traditionally it takes 12 hours or so to cool produce but this technology only needs a third of that time. As a result, produce spends less time in the coldstore, which means it can be shipped quicker and has a longer shelf-life."
The technology works by forcing the cold air from within the coldstore through the cartons to cool down the produce faster. The unit is mounted onto a maximum of 24 pallets at a time and comprises a tarp which is pulled over the cartons, plus a remote-controlled, energy-saving electric fan that generates 20,000 cubic meters of cool air per hour.
The entire unit is mobile, meaning it can be easily moved by forklift truck and positioned anywhere within the coldstore.
According to Van Kessel, exporters are keen to use the unit due to its ability to control temperature and its flexibility of use.
"Berry sales are booming and major berry companies will pay more for fruit supplied at the optimum temperature, so customers from all over the world are asking for this pre-cooling unit.
"The Mobile Pre-Cool Unit can be used for any period of time from a couple of months to the duration of a season.
"The technology is also helping to reduce waste which contributes to the overall bigger issue of sustainability. We showcased the technology at Fruit Logistica 2014 and sold two units right there. We've had lots of interest – from Canada to Colombia and also Spain."
Broadening the reach
The Mobile Pre-Cool Unit marks BG Door’s continued progression into tailor-made ripening room solutions following the company’s success over the last 25 years as a leading provider of ripening room doors, for mainly bananas and tropical fruits.
To make that shift, in 2004 BG Door merged with an existing associate, v.d. Heiden Systems, after recognizing the potential to complement its own portfolio with the manufacturer's ripening equipment.
"V.d. Heiden was a competitor of sorts...They had new ripening technology that we thought was interesting but they lacked an international sales reach. BG Door has that global focus, so it’s a partnership that works well."
BG Door launched its range of ripening room technology a couple of years ago with a modular cooling system called EcoTop which is designed to offer exporters maximum fruit quality at a low cost.
Then during the second half of 2013, the firm introduced EcoTop Start, a so-called 'plug and play' ripening unit for fruit such as bananas and tropicals.
"EcoTop Start is a pre-mounted ripening unit that is ready to use. It features the necessary components to ripen bananas in small volumes and in areas where there are no refrigeration facilities available."
With that in mind, Van Kessel said EcoTop Start is ideal for small-scale grower-exporters as well as suppliers in countries where refrigeration facilities are scarce, such as China, India and Indonesia.
"Asia is our objective. Suppliers in this region want to start ripening bananas but they don’t have the volume to fill a conventional ripening room or the facilities to do so.
"But with EcoTop Start they can buy four units that can be shipped in one 40ft container. It’s a low-cost solution, plus it also has low energy consumption which cut costs further."
To cement its relationship with v.d. Heiden in January BG Door relocated its sales office from Houten to a site next to its partner in Barendrecht, near the Port of Rotterdam.
"Since Barendrecht is at the heart of the fresh fruit and vegetables trade in the Netherlands we are now as close as possible to our accounts," Van Kessel said.
The move also made logistical sense since BG Door’s production facilities are already located in the area.
With the partnership clearly flourishing, the duo have bought their neighbor’s premises to allow the group to grow and manufacture more products in the future. Van Kessel also revealed that BG Door and v.d. Heiden now planned to merge their branding and marketing, starting with the launch of a new logo shortly.