Kenya is one of the biggest exporters of cut flowers, accounting for 38% of imports into the European Union (EU). This increasingly thriving industry has driven the resulting increasing demand for effective cold chain solutions, particularly for cold rooms with additional pre-cooling capabilities. We are recording an increased demand, explains Michele Bruni, the Founder and Chief Commercial Officer at InspiraFarms, a company that designs, develops, and supplies modular and energy-efficient on-farm and close-to-farm pre-coolers, cold storage, and packhouses for the horticultural sector in emerging markets, with a focus on African countries.
"Clients that have used our most recent systems from 2019 have recorded an impressive reduction in shrinkage and claims, of up to 50% each, alongside important extension in shelf-life of up to 4 days."
According to InspiraFarms, several of their clients have been able to shift sea freight with a higher capacity and cheaper alternative to air freight. This way, these growers and exporters have experienced a payback time on their investment in the cold chain below two years. "
In this previous article, he broke down the importance of pre-cooling flowers at the farm level, especially with the new developments of the increasing interest in shipping flowers by the sea. In this article, he will talk more about how their cooling machines work. But first, to refresh your memory, InspiraFarms provides agribusinesses, exporters, 3PL, and fresh produce distributors with sustainable growth solutions to handle their fresh produce post-harvest. "Their solutions have proven to significantly cut energy costs, reduce production losses and meet international export certifications."
How InspiraFarms is 'cooling the future' of food
According to Michele, InspiraFarms, provide the most advanced and affordable range of forced air pre-coolers and blast chillers in Africa. "With over ten years' development on blast chillers and forced air precoolers, we have enabled our customers to drop down the fruit, vegetables, meats, and flower temperature as quickly as possible. The cooling technology has been designed to minimize shrinkage and damage while keeping condensation, and therefore molds, under control. We take great pride in being pre-cooling specialists with an outstanding know-how in dimensioning the pressures, airflow, and cooling capacity required by each fresh product and supply chain. Altogether, these solutions are developed to minimize losses and rejections by utilizing data to ensure the visibility of the process to off-takers, increasing shelf-life and therefore more revenue to its fresh produce growers and exporters."
"Our pre-cooling technology allows the pressure and airflow to force the cold air through the packaging (from crates and boxes to punnets and clamshells), allowing to cool down the core of the product, reducing its activity and therefore delaying senescence, and extending shelf-life."
Optimum cooling at the source needs to be combined with properly dimensioned cooling machines, she continues, so optimal temperature is maintained during all post-harvest. The use of humidifiers to maintain a relative humidity can be customized for each flower and can also be also designed and deployed by InspiraFarms."
Finally, they offer regular maintenance of all cooling machines, including non-InspiraFarms ones. This is to optimize performance, minimize downtime, and reduce cooling system breakdowns and consequent damage."
Customized designs for all on-farm cooling solutions needs
In partnership with one of the largest Italian cooling machines integrators, their machines are built to respond to the challenges of African power grids and to create the redundancy needed for operations in remote areas."
To cater to pre-cooling needs, InspiraFarms offers blast chillers and forced air precoolers, providing control and flexibility over the cooling process. A tarp included in the system is laid across the top and back of the stock, allowing it to seal and keep the flow of cold air through the product rather than around it. When the fan is turned on, it pulls or forces the airflow through the boxes, removing the heat through convection.
Additionally, InspiraFarms provides remote monitoring data solutions through their data platform, InspiraCoolCloud, a cloud-based 'data center' to access readings and reports on cold room parameters such as temperature, energy, door openings, humidity, and more. This enables cold chain operations to know, in real-time, the health of fresh produce and improve its traceability. Additionally, loading docks for on-site loading of reefer containers and mold reduction are incorporated for flowers exported by sea freight. "
Their blast chiller system has pressures of up to 300 Pa (Pascal) and adjustable airflows. "This allows us to match a range of cooling machines to our customers' cooling processes and needs. These blast chillers are portable, easy to use, and can be connected to an electric socket and located inside any cold room."
Customizable cooling solutions for fresh produce
"We offer a broad range of direct expansion cooling machines, from 5 to 500+ kW, with the capacity to cool from 10 to over 1000 pallets. Within this, multiple units can be placed in the same room, and the machines are suitable to retrofit existing cold rooms as well."
InspiraFarms solutions for coldrooms and packhouses - can be custom-made for pre-cooling, cold storage, and processing, each with a specific configuration on temperature, pressure, relative humidity, and airflow. "This all will keep the freshness of each flower stem," Michele concludes.