Mike “Mick” Gallace has been growing strawberries more than 40 years, starting on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia. With expansion over the years to the Yarra Valley and Queensland, his Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm now produces strawberries year ‘round, with raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries completing the portfolio.
Gallace has always been conscious of the need for fast and efficient precooling of berries, to deliver them in the best possible condition. Sunny Ridge was one of the first companies to install high-humidity, forced-air coolers back in the 1980s, and Gallace has been constantly looking to improve the process. On his latest annual visit to berry growers in the United States, he discovered Global Cooling’s Jet Precoolers.
“This Jet-Ready Precooler customer in Watsonville was attracted to the design because it was portable,” said Gallace, “but I immediately recognized it for what it really was—the most powerful forced-air cooler I had ever seen.”
He immediately called Jim Still, Global’s president and founder, to ask if Still could make his Jet-Ready Precooler even more powerful. The result is the “Jet-Ready–Heavy Duty Precooler,” which has 40 hp of fan motors and can deliver 50,000 cfm at operating static pressure; nearly twice the performance of a Jet-Ready standard precooler. Yet the Jet-HD still occupies a footprint of 40 x 48 inches and stands 7 feet high—about the size and weight of a standard fruit pallet.
Two Jet precoolers were air-freighted in October 2015 to Australia and immediately deployed, removing field heat from strawberries picked straight into clamshell punnets.
Still said, “The holy grail in berry cooling is to fully precool in one hour or less. With the Jet HDs we built for Mick, we’ve proven we can achieve this milestone, time after time.
“Most precoolers fully cool berries in clamshells in 2 to 2½ hours; this was the ‘industry standard and best practice’ until now,” said Still.
With the Jet HD’s faster cooling times, “It is possible to double throughput in an existing packhouse without adding on a building expansion,” he said, “and these are in addition to the obvious benefit of much longer shelf life because of reducing the cut-to-cool time by 50%.”
The precoolers Still designed, engineered, and manufactured for Sunny Ridge are capable of “more than 50,000 cfm at one-inch water column static pressure,” he said. “This works out to more than 5 cfm (cubic feet per minute) per pound, or 18.7 cubic meters per kilogram per hour. That is a tremendous volume of airflow.”
We’re pretty sure that with precooling this fast, we won’t need to use any modified atmosphere treatments,” said Gallace, “which is another plus when we are all striving for organic certification. Plus, we plan to move the Jets from farm to farm, following the harvests per state, which saves a lot of money from day one.”
Go to www.sunnyridge.com.au or www.PreCoolers.net for further information.