Cherry packer has record harvest and packout with help from new precoolers
The cherry specialist, nestled in the picturesque hills of The Dalles, Oregon, broke its own record for fruit harvested. According to a press release, Orchard View harvested about 14,000 tons of fruit in 2016 – 4,000 tons more than its usual crop.
David Ortega, Orchard View’s Director of Packing Operations, said the increase was supported by a major investment that Orchard View made in upgraded technology in both sorting and cold storage.
Orchard View installed a Unitec optical sorter that greatly improved sorting and sizing of fruit. Ortega, however, wasn’t satisfied with the facility’s cold storage capabilities.
“As we were going through the process, we felt we were doing this huge upgrade and doing all these quality improvements,” Ortega said. “But we hadn’t really tackled the cold chain issues. So I went looking.”
Ortega said he recalled an article he had read a couple of years back in an industry trade magazine about Global Cooling Inc. – a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based company – specializing in produce precooling and recooling. Ortega made an inquiry to Global Cooling president and founder, Jim Still, and construction on an entirely new precooling system began in late April.
Orchard View installed five of Global Cooling’s two-tier Rapid-Cool Precoolers, and added its Jet-Ready Precooler as well. “When you start working with a new vendor that’s completely across the country, you’re kind of like, ‘Oh boy. I’m putting a lot faith in this that it’s going to do what we need it to do,’” he said. “And it did. We’re very pleased with what we got.”
Ortega said Orchard View’s cold storage facility lacked ample floor space for cooling and didn’t have room to spread out fruit across the floor. They were looking for something that was more conducive to their space limitations. The Rapid-Cool accommodates 2-tier pallet storage and can handle pallet heights ranging from 70″ high to 94″ high on each tier, allowing Orchard View to stack its cherries up, instead of out, while doubling the number of pallets stored. Without this design, Orchard View likely would have had to build an entirely new storage unit.
“That was the first thing that drove me to this system, just using the space that we had,” Ortega said. “And two, just the ability to cool at such a high speed, getting the product down to the right temperature and shipping it out in such a timely manner.” In addition to denser storage, the Rapid-Cool cools fruit incredibly quick, due to great amounts of powerful vertical airflow. Combine two-tier pallets with twice the airflow and Orchard View is precooling four times as much product in the same square footage.
Ortega said product was going into storage at about 50-degrees-Farenheit and would be cooled down to the low 30s in just two hours. “We knew this had to do the job of getting it cold enough, and this allowed us to do that in a two-hour window,” Ortega said.
“I didn’t know what I was getting into,” said Ortega, who admitted refrigeration is not his area of expertise. “But Jim was very helpful and knowledgeable. He talked me through some things. He worked with me and my team here to make us feel like, OK, he knows what he’s talking about and we believe what he’s talking about.” Still went with a Global Cooling crew to The Dalles for installation of the new precooler. Orchard View and its new equipment were ready for the start of cherry season on May 30th.
In addition to the Rapid-Cool, Orchard View utilized the flexibility offered by its new Jet Precooler for smaller loads. Ortega said if only a handful of pallets needed to be loaded onto an airport truck in just a couple of hours, that fruit could be pulled from the rest of the harvest and cooled down in the same two-hour window.
“It did what we hoped it would do,” said Ortega. “We’re very happy with Jim and Global Cooling’s work to help us find the recipe that worked within the constraints of our refrigeration system.”
According to Still, faster precooling maximizes a produce’s shelf life and weight. He emphasized that is not to be overlooked during the postharvest process. “I can’t stress enough how important is to precool product and to do it properly,” he said. “If you want to rapidly lower the temperature of harvested produce and drastically decrease spoilage, you have to invest in quality precooling.”
For more information:
Global Cooling Inc.