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Storing spuds: Refrigeration technology for potato storage applications

FH Series Unit CoolersOver the past four decades, refrigeration companies like Refrigeration Systems, Inc. (RSI) have provided cooling equipment to potato farmers and agricultural companies in order to keep potato crops from spoiling during storage. These refrigeration systems must meet the unique needs of potato storage applications, and so function best when designed for each end user’s precise application, rather than on off-the-shelf technology. RSI, which produced the first potato storage refrigeration systems, continues to innovate in this market, bringing top-quality refrigeration products to U.S. farmers and ensuring that crops can be stored safely and economically before they are brought to market.

Unique demands of potato storage
The need for application-specific refrigeration technology has grown in the potato market in recent years, as temperatures have reached higher extremes and farmers have gradually lowered average holding temperatures to better prevent sprouting and spoilage.

Potato storage differs from other refrigeration applications in that systems must be designed to use outside air for some of the year, when it is cool enough to do so, and to switch to partial or constant cooling based on ambient temperatures. Farmers and agricultural companies prefer to cool with outside air as much as possible, to reduce refrigeration costs, but refrigeration technology must be able to reliably switch in when ambient temperatures climb too high.

Additionally, potato storage applications require that refrigeration technology be incorporated into ventilation systems, whereas most refrigeration is standalone. By incorporating the refrigeration system into the ventilation system of the potato cellar, greater uniformity of temperatures and reliability are ensured.

Demand for this technology varies widely from year to year, given that farmers’ cash flow is highly dependent on production in the commodity market. When farmers experience successful crops and high market prices, they are able to grow their business, replace aging technology, and add additional refrigeration to existing storage sheds.

Cutting-edge storage technology by RSI
As a result of the specific demands of potato storage applications, wherein refrigeration systems are ideally integrated into the ventilation systems of individual storage sheds, technology that is designed from the ground up is more successful in meeting farmers’ needs than off-the-shelf systems. With industry-leading refrigeration companies like RSI, each system can be customized to the specific cellar or storage space based on size, specific location, and more.

Most often, RSI designs air cooled condensing units with flat evaporator coils to meet the specific needs of individual customers. While competitors often sell exclusively or primarily off-the-shelf units that are not tailored to the specific design of the storage space, RSI builds each refrigeration unit based on the owner’s needs and decades of technical expertise.

Occasionally, based on customer needs, RSI will also design refrigeration systems that rely on unit coolers, rather than air-cooled condensing units integrated into ventilation systems, if a customer’s particular application demands this kind of technology. For example, storage sheds with no existing ventilation system require unit coolers with built-in fans, so that the system can utilize the fan from the unit cooler to distribute air through the cellar.

RSI’s potato storage refrigeration technology has improved over the past four decades, ensuring the same quality that customers expect, but with better control, greater ease-of-use, and more. The introduction of computerized technology has enabled the development of better, more sensitive controls. Rather than simply being able to turn the compressor on and off, as was the case with prior generations of equipment, RSI’s modern refrigeration systems feature controls that are better able to fine-tune temperature and pressure. As a result, the refrigeration systems are more efficient, which in turn leads to lower operating costs and a more rapid return on investment (ROI). In addition, RSI has incorporated technology like Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) for condensing fans and electronic valves, which also increase efficiency and cost-effective operation.

Potato Storage Technology
Over the past four decades, potato storage technology has greatly evolved, from an industry with little to no refrigeration systems available, to advanced refrigeration systems that ensure limited spoilage and sprouting and enable farmers to bring products to market year-round. RSI, as the inventor of potato storage refrigeration systems, continues to lead the industry in developing application-specific refrigeration systems. These refrigeration systems utilize modern technological advancements to meet the specific needs of potato storage facilities, as well as to increase efficiency and lower operating costs.

Further information from Troy Bingham, Account Manager, Refrigeration Systems, RSI:

Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse

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