Re cold food storage, it’s efficiency plus or it ain’t up to snuff

Cold storage done right

As it happens, refrigerators, as an in-the-home appliance, consume electricity. Understanding this, it is so confounding when I spot on site in supermarkets and grocery stores displayed meats in refrigeration units that are not fully enclosed.

At origin, destination and all points in between, all perishable food items necessitating refrigeration, must be kept cold to keep from spoiling, obviously. Where and how such is stored can, energy-wise, make all the difference.

Case in point: In the July 2016 Fruit Growers News issue, the cover story is appropriately named: “Modern storage: Facilities use less energy, improve efficiency and fruit quality.”

Two different enterprises are mentioned: Crist Brothers Orchards and Valicoff Fruit.

The former, an apple-growing concern in Walden, New York, in 2013 invested in a new controlled atmosphere (CA) storage facility with eight rooms in all with each being able to hold around 850 bins. “There’s a large loading and unloading area that’s refrigerated, and can serve as backup cold storage in an overflow situation,” Fruit Growers News Managing Editor Matt Milkovich wrote. “The storage controls can be operated remotely, using a smartphone, iPad or similar device.”

Concrete and wood supported by some steel is what the facility is made of while the rooms themselves are constructed from prefabbed panels of foam to create an air-tight seal. Moreover, they’re energy efficient, according to Milkovich.

Meanwhile, in the case of the latter, Valicoff Fruit of Wapato, Washington, was looking to increase storage capacity.

“Built in 2014, the new facility has six airtight CA rooms (oxygen levels are reduced, and CO2 levels are controlled with carbon scrubbers and other technology), with the potential to expand to 18,” Milkovich related. “The building has a steel frame with walls of insulated metal panels (and an insulated floor).”

Farther on in the article, the Fruit Growers News managing editor continued: “Storage Control Systems (SCS) designed the facility, and worked with Concord Construction to build it.”

The facility makes use of what is called a “Hycool refrigeration system,” a substitute for the more common refrigerants of ammonia and Freon, with Hycool being better for the environment, according to Milkovich, citing Brett Valicoff in the article.

The storing of cold food has definitely come a long way. That said, still obfuscating though is why there are grocery stores that have refrigeration units of the “not-totally-enclosed” kind, and such are used to store perishable food items. Puzzling, indeed!

Tribute to an achiever extraordinaire

Does this ever take me back! I was a student studying Engineering Technology at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo back in the early and mid-1970s. As it happened, some 35 miles up California’s central coast to the north in the town of Cambria resided Art Beal (now deceased), a former Olympic swimmer. The colorful character Art was (to give you some idea, he also made it known to many, myself included, his two alter egos: “Der Tinkerpaw” and “Captain Nitt Witt”), no doubt made him the talk of the town – I mean, I don’t understand how he couldn’t be. To me as I’m sure to others, what made Art, Art and set him apart, was his more creative side, exemplified by the home he had designed and built.

Set back somewhat from the town’s main drag was located this, yes, humble abode of his, consisting of all things, abalone shells, bicycle handle bars, toilet seats, basically, whatever he could find, and the way everything was melded together just so, has created what is today the conversation starter it is. Ergo, it is quite fitting and it should come as little surprise that Art’s digs, as it were, would be situated on none other than Nitt Witt Ridge.

An amiable chap Art was; quite the character and that’s putting it mildly. In his late seventies when I first met this extraordinary person, on each visit, I was always welcomed; never turned away. Art always made time. Besides enjoying the many stories this amazing and incredible human being seemed so eager to share, one of the things I most admired about the place he hung his hat was the absence of what I would refer to as the common refrigerator. So where did he keep the food that required chilling? Because of the way his house was constructed, what he had devised to keep his food cold was, in essence, a small room in the house’s center, so well insulated (from the outside elements), in fact, that the temperature inside that room was indeed low enough that there was nary a need for him to own the standard electrically-powered model. Though not one to make wagers, but if I did, I would bet that the house on Nitt Witt Ridge has one of the lowest monthly energy bills in all of California for its size. Way cool! (Full disclosure: Sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Notes

  1. Matt Milkovich, “Modern storage: Facilities use less energy, improve efficiency and fruit quality,” Fruit Growers News, Jul. 2016, pp. 1, 5

About Alan Kandel

Alan turned hardscrabble technology related experience into a professional writing gig and has never looked back. Alan resides in California's heartland - the San Joaquin Valley.

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