Temperature controlled environment suits vegetables

29 November 2010

Following the opening of six controlled environment stores, based on technology more often found in high tech manufacturing and production plants, Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research Centre in the UK looks set to become the leading European facility of its kind

The new storage facilities use controllers and fan drives from Mitsubishi Electric to control the temperature, humidity and CO2 content in each store.

Ray Andrews of Crop Systems takes up the story: “Essentially we have sensors all over each store which feed back to a computer. This takes all the data, builds a 3D map of the atmosphere, then sets the speed of various fans to ensure target conditions are maintained. It gets more sophisticated because we may want to gradually change the environmental conditions over a period of a few days, or introduce a cleaning-in-place mist, and must seek to minimise overall energy consumption.

“With storage lasting for 6-12 months, a small daily energy saving will add up to cheaper vegetables for the consumer. Our software works all this out automatically and ensures the crops come out of storage as fresh as they went in.”

“This will be a world class facility. While there are four centres in Europe, this will be the most modern,” said Andrews. “It will help UK potato growers to become more efficient by adopting the latest storage techniques."

There are six storage cells, which provide a total of 42 units, to look at various storage and refrigeration techniques. For example, different ventilation methods - forced, suction, letter box - could be investigated.

Mitsubishi has available a fan rated drive - the F740 - which optimises power consumption while matching torque to instantaneous demand.

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