Saving money is at the top of most growers’ agendas, particularly when it comes to the potentially high costs of running controlled atmosphere stores. Couple that with agriculture’s determination to save energy for environmental reasons and progress in refrigeration technology is always welcome.
The experienced team at Orchard Cooling, which has seen a strong start to business since launching four years ago, has developed a new approach to defrosting cold store coolers that can save growers thousands of pounds by reducing their energy consumption.
The company, set up in March 2017 by former International Controlled Atmosphere (ICA) employees Sean Macoy, Rob Burbridge and Dave Reynolds, has made sure the technology is fully tried and tested before launching it on the market.
Working in collaboration with a local grower, the company has spent the past two seasons trialing the innovative approach to the defrosting challenge, developed in-house by sales and design expert Paul Kennett.
He explained: “After using this arrangement for two storage seasons we can show a 75% saving on the amount of energy used by Orchard Cooling’s warm fluid defrosting method using air source heat pump technology as part of a secondary cooling system.”
While calculating the exact saving is a complex business and depends on a number of factors, Orchard Cooling estimates that switching to air source heat pump defrosting can save close to £8,000 per year based on an eight-store set up.
While using 12kW in-line electric defrost heaters set for three defrosts a day would cost up to £5,443 over a six-month period, the same calculations on a system using air source heat pump defrosting would cost just £1,569.
“Incorporating air source heat pumps is an efficient method of warming the glycol for warm fluid defrosting. The heat pump unit is connected with small bore pipework flow and return to the store valve stations and maintains a high density insulated vessel containing glycol at a stable temperature ready to defrost the stores,” he went on.
The innovative system is not on offer as an ‘added extra’ from Orchard Cooling but is instead set to be included at the heart of all the refrigeration and controlled atmosphere systems the company installs in future, working with well-known industry names including Storage Control Systems, Wealden AM and Torran Construction.
As well as fruit stores, the company provides electrical and control systems for a wide range of other growers and businesses, including high-tech tunnels with automated irrigation, humidity and door systems. It can also call on the services of a specialist programmer who can create bespoke software to ensure growers can get the best results out of top end tunnel systems.
Another area of expansion is the South East’s rapidly expanding wine industry, where Orchard Cooling’s expertise has been put to good use installing chilled storage for the likes of Hattingley Valley Wines and Itasca Winery.
“Above all, we pride ourselves on offering a bespoke solution to the challenges facing growers and packers,” explained Service Director Sean Macoy. “We offer a full range of electrical services and we are always looking for ways to make systems more efficient – as our heat pump defrost shows.
“Making technology work for the grower in order to improve their bottom line and make their lives easier while also doing our bit for the environment is the driving force behind the Orchard Cooling team.”