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Dave Zoetemelk, InspiraFarms Cooling:

Kenya: “Demand for on-farm cooling solutions is increasing”

For over a year now, InspiraFarms Cooling is offering their cooling solutions to the flower industry. And since they installed their first unit at a flower farm in Timau, Kenya, they have seen the demand increase and are expanding their presence in the market. The company recently launched maintenance services for all on-farm cooling machinery, and more cooling solutions are in the pipeline. Next month, they will be at  IFTEX in Nairobi for the second time, exhibiting their cooling solutions for the floral industry, including cold rooms, precoolers, and packhouses, explains InspiraFarms' Director of Sales, Dave Zoetemelk.

Cold rooms and packhouse at a Kenyan grower

Entering the flower industry
Since 2012, InspiraFarms Cooling specialized in providing African agribusiness in the fruit and vegetable industry with the tools, technology, and expertise to significantly reduce food losses and energy costs and access higher-value markets. In 2022, Inspirafarms Cooling expanded these solutions into the flower market, selling a unit designed for an established flower farm in Timau, Kenya. "Our decision to focus on serving the flower market was primarily driven by market demand and the need for innovative solutions. As the market expanded, we recognized the need for reliable and efficient cooling solutions specifically tailored to the unique requirements of flower producers, distributors, retailers, and exporters. The high-value industry and the delicate nature of fresh flowers necessitate precise temperature control and optimal post-harvest handling to ensure their quality and prolong their shelf life."

First flower unit installed
The flower farm in Timau sought a competitively priced turn-key solution and energy-efficient facility to cool and store fresh-cut roses, and InspiraFarms Cooling could provide that, explains Dave. "The first unit we installed included a receiving unit for fresh-cut flowers from the field, designed to quickly bring the field heat down to +5°C. The second section is designated for after grading, where flowers are cooled further down to +1°C and put in the box for export. Overall, the facility consists of a receiving/intake cold room and a final/dispatch cold room, all designed to have the highest output in product quality and the lowest dehydration, increasing vase life while minimizing condensation, which can be harmful to flower quality. This client also purchased our real-time data solution to monitor and optimize their cooling performance. This includes a set of intelligent sensors, loggers, and electronics to provide them with data transparency through real-time data monitoring."

Cold chain must start on-farm
The cold chain, particularly for cut flowers, must start on-farm right after flowers are picked and cut, she stresses. "For most exporters, flowers are shipped to the airport between 24 and 48 hours after picking. A pre-cooling treatment before and after grading and packaging assures quality control by slowing down decomposition and decreasing shrinkage. During this time, the temperature and humidity conditions ought to be controlled, bringing down the temperature and keeping an ideal range of 1 to 3°C. For this reason, time is critical since each hour away from the flower's cold target chain temperature reduces vase life by one whole day. We wanted to allow our clients to evade this loss by maintaining this value with our cooling solutions."

High interest in sea freight
According to Dave, the interest and demand for sea freight shipments are increasing. When opting for sea freight, the temperature at origin and throughout the trip needs to be optimal." In the last few months, Kenyan flower exporters have expressed their challenges with using airfreight to transit their produce, conveying their opt-in to use sea freight due to the high costs of air freight. To flower traders, sea freight's advantages over aircraft are based on higher capacity and much lower prices, while having longer transit times to key markets, while the windows covering for the premium of airfreight are becoming shorter and less profitable. With sea freight, shelf life at origin needs to be optimal, allowing us to preserve the quality expected from consumers for over a month. To achieve these results, high-quality pre-cooling and an efficient cold chain from the harvest to consumers are critical. Our products are designed to make such long journeys feasible for our clients who want to be ready for sea freight."

Which service is most often used? Why?  
According to Dave, cold rooms and forced air precoolers are the most demanded cooling solutions at the moment. "InspiraFarms Cooling offers blast chillers and forced air pre–coolers to speed up the cooling to equally and effectively reach every package on a pallet, crate, box, or bin. When done efficiently, the airflow is optimized, and the period for the temperature drop of the produce is significantly shortened. With pressures of up to 300 Pa (Pascal), our pre-cooling systems and adjustable airflows allow it to match with a range of cooling machines and your cooling processes and needs."

Cold chain assets for a complete and controlled cooling cycle
To offer a complete and controlled cooling cycle of flowers, InspiraFarms Cooling offers a variety of cold chain assets, such as positive temperature cold rooms, refrigerated packing spaces, refrigerated distribution corridors, and much more. All fit under one roof, with modular structures and designs, materials that comply with all quality and food safety certifications, and an integrated real-time data monitoring system. "Our data solution is far ahead of other known solutions in the market. In our standard solution, we do not only measure the room temperature but also the humidity of each cold room. Additionally, we also measure the produce temperature by using piercing probes, the door openings, and energy readings (consumption & over-/under voltage. This solution can be extended with additional sensings like Ethylene and CO2 for those clients who would like to set alarms or analyze the data and improve their cooling recipes and protocols for an even better result." 

Maintenance service
As for many products, good quality maintenance is important. It minimizes downtime and reduces breakdowns and consequent damage to all your cooling machines and equipment with regular maintenance. Therefore, they recently launched maintenance services for all on-farm cooling machinery, including cold rooms, packhouses, freezers, and long-term storage solutions.  

"Whether a grower purchased a high-efficiency system from us or has cooling equipment supplied by other companies, we can provide them with our recommended maintenance services. We can schedule the servicing activities around crop seasonality to cover the best servicing practices before, during, and after your harvest season," says Dave.

More solutions in the pipeline
Throughout the year, they will continue to deploy more flower solutions to their clients. "In turn, this will enable them to experience lower rejections, energy efficiency, extended shelf life, and efficient cooling."

IFTEX in Nairobi, Kenya
Eager to learn more about InspiraFarms Cooling and meet the team? They will be exhibiting at the IFTEX in Nairobi, Kenya, from June 6-8 in the Visa Oshwal Center, stand G3-29 (book a meeting here). "For us, the 2022 edition generated substantially promising leads in an industry we had just joined. All these business opportunities provided us with an excellent foundation for future growth and collaborations within the industry. Through meaningful conversations and interactions with attendees, we gained valuable insights into the challenges and pain points faced by exporters in the fresh flower industry. This knowledge will enable us to refine and tailor our solutions to address the unique requirements of our customers effectively. Critically, and we have already done two installations for clients we met at IFTEX 2022." 

For more information:  
InspiraFarms Cooling
Tel.:+44 (0) 20 3893 2420                                                                                               

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