John Haffenden and the team at Freshcold are also skilled at project managing entire cold stores, from foundations to fit-out, something that proved useful when Robert Pascall decided it was time to renovate his stores at Clock House Farm, near Coxheath in Kent.
Although modernised over the years, the four fifties-built stores had reached the end of their useful life, and Robert asked Freshcold to come up with a scheme to strip out the buildings and replace them with a state-of-the-art facility.

“As a family-run business, we had known John for years, since he had regularly carried out the maintenance on the old stores, and when it was time to replace them we asked him and a couple of other firms to quote for the work.

“John’s was the best quotation, and we already know what good customer service he provides, and so we were happy to ask him to tackle the job,” said Robert.

Clock House Farm Ltd grows supermarket-destined strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, apples, pears and plums on the 330 hectares to the south of Coxheath and a further 30 hectares near Tonbridge.

Against the background of such a busy operation, it was essential to choose a reliable contractor, and with a lifetime’s experience in the industry, Robert was confident that John Haffenden was the man to run the project.

The work involves taking out the old brick stores and replacing the existing installation with three controlled atmosphere stores and one chilled air store for soft fruit and late-harvested apples.

Each of the stores will be able to hold 468 bins, providing a total of 560 tonnes of modern, highly efficient, low energy storage. The stores will also benefit from one of John’s own innovations, a chiller defrost system that stores the heat created by the cooling process and then using it to defrost the chillers when needed.

“Freshcold is driven by environmental concerns, which is good for the grower’s green credentials as well as helping to keep energy costs as low as possible,” said John, a hands-on expert with an engineering background that allows him to provide the best solution to each grower’s individual needs.

While Freshcold is project managing the stores at Clock House Farm, John is liaising with other well-known experts to ensure the whole scheme meets his own high standards and delivers Robert and his team a trouble-free installation.

The floors and groundworks are by G J Elgar Construction, while W D Hobden Coldstore Services will be creating the buildings themselves ahead of Freshcold adding the controlled atmosphere systems and control equipment in time for the stores to be commissioned at the end of April.

“Ken Hatch, of UKCA Ltd, will be reinstalling the scrubber,” added Robert, who said that as well as providing more efficient and cost-effective storage, the scheme would allow the business to store raspberry and blackberry canes and strawberry plants in ideal conditions before they were planted out.

With the industry keen to take advantage of any future support for storage schemes, John stressed that while grants could reduce the capital cost of a project, it was efficiency, sustainability and reliability that counted in the longer term.

“At Freshcold we are committed to installing the best possible solution and one that is tailor-made to the needs of the individual grower,” he said. “Whether or not the project is grant-aided, Freshcold will make sure it’s not just fit for purpose on day one but will continue to work efficiently and reliably for many years to come.

“There is a difference between selling and installing a refrigeration system and understanding how it works, what it does and how you can make it do the job more efficiently,” he commented. “That doesn’t come as part of the grant process but by choosing the right supplier.”

Pictured: Stripping out the old stores to make way for the new, energy-efficient installation at Clock House Farm