Branston Limited is one of the UK’s biggest buyers, growers, distributors, and marketers of fresh potatoes – handling around 350,000 tonnes a year. With sites in Lincoln, Scotland, and the South West, Branston supplies some of the largest retail, wholesale, and food manufacturing customers in the UK.
Branston also produces an extensive range of innovative and ready-to-cook prepared vegetables and meals.
The project was to convert two existing Passive Up Flow (PUF) stores that were used for long-term storage of potatoes and make them suitable for storage of sweet potatoes.
“The stores are absolutely superb.”
Branston had dramatically increased their sweet potato business volumes with one of the UK’s largest supermarkets, resulting in the need for bespoke facilities to meet the demand.
JD Cooling Group has worked with customers that import sweet potatoes for many years and in this time gained vast amounts of experience in this field.
To assist Branston with their requirements, JD Cooling had to understand a number of things including: where the sweet potatoes were being imported from, the type of container/packaging they were being shipped in, and the length of time the product would need to be stored for.
Working closely with Branston, we developed a design concept that worked for their particular storage containers and volumes/turnover in order to identify which stores would be suitable.
The converted stores utilise a common secondary glycol ringmain, as previously installed by JD Cooling over 10 years ago. The ringmain is chilled by two packaged HFC air-cooled chillers. Using a secondary glycol ringmain has helped the stores become very environmentally friendly. This will bring energy-efficiency benefits to the customer.
The cooler design is totally bespoke to JD Cooling and incorporates:
- Ultra-high air volumes.
- Outside air usage for free cooling.
- CO2 control and dehumidification for when the crop arrives ‘wet’.
- Heating for when there are prolonged periods of very cold weather and the need to keep the stores above critical low levels of storage temperature.
Another innovative design feature of the project is the application of the “Omnicuro” control and monitoring system. Omnicuro enables Branston to achieve finite control of temperature, relative humidity, and CO2 levels with the ability to monitor these levels and make any desired changes remotely.
Extremely tight deadlines to complete the project and handover was a challenge. To overcome the crucial need to hand over the stores to allow Branson to deliver their products to their customers on time, JD Cooling used a pre-planned hire package, whilst the permanent solution was completed and handed over to Branston.
Electrical and Power
Given the very tight deadlines of the project it was advantageous that JD Cooling were able to offer the benefits of a turnkey solution to Branston, thus reducing the coordination of different trades and removing any potential delays or additional cost that may result. JD Power were able to carry put all the electrical installations required for the store conversions, including mains power and distribution.
Sweet potatoes are a very different challenge to store compared with the traditional UK grown potato. Added to the different storage regime that they require, the harvesting, washing and grading process, which is done at source, followed by the potentially long journey required to get the produce to Branston’s sites adds a significant element of risk in trying to store the product for long periods on arrival. If this is not done correctly, there is the potential for large storage losses, which would make the whole process extremely risky for the UK handlers of the product. Working very closely together with Branston’s technical team allowed JD Cooling to engineer the stores, which have delivered excellent results for Branston, their customer and of course, the end user consumers of the highly desirable sweet potato itself.
“We have installed many systems for sweet potatoes going back decades for our various customers who have imported the product from multiple sources. Over this time the methods of processing at source have introduced new challenges to the storability once the crop arrives in the UK. In addition, the number of locations around the world that are producing sweet potatoes has also presented different pressure on maintaining the required quality once the produce has entered the cold chain.” Says John Dye, Chairman, and Founder of JD Cooling Group.
“The fact that Branston fully embraced the need to meet these new factors head on and support us in designing systems that would provide them with the necessary tools for the job was absolutely critical to the success of this project.” says Dye.
Following the handover of the new stores, Branston commented that the “stores are absolutely superb”, with their own suppliers also stating “amazing results are being seen due to the stores’ fantastic performance”. As a result of the success and excellence of the product results, Branston are confident in extending their sweet potato business.