Prime Fresh Handling’s New Vacuum Cooler at BOG is BIG News

From farm to cargo-port to shelf, there are myriad steps along the way that must be taken to maintain the quality of delicate perishables. Topping the list is the steady application of cool air.

To eliminate the chances of a moldy old blueberry or warm and bruised flowers ever making it to market, shippers and handlers need the right stuff, like tight procedures, experienced staff, and top-of-the-line equipment.

Prime Fresh Handling’s got all that—and now even more in its ongoing fight against temperature abuse: a new ColdMax vacuum cooler at its BOG facility.

We recently spoke with Jose Luis Vargas, our Commercial Manager on the front lines in Colombia, to learn about this unique new feature that is making his customers happy, and the consumers they serve even happier—and for longer. Turns out, application of a vacuum cooler to the existing standard pre-cooling process can extend the vase life of flowers by up to 1.5 extra days.

So, let’s get to the root of the story:

Q: The new vacuum coolers at BOG are said to be a “rare find.” Why’s that? This technology has been around for years.

A: Yes, you’re right. Vacuum pre-cooling for floral crops actually dates back to the 1950s, but for years, few such systems were being used commercially. In recent years however, they’ve become more prevalent at centralized cargo terminals, such as our PFH facility at BOG.

What makes this system a “rare find” is that due to high capital cost of the equipment, few other local logistics providers can offset such an investment. It also adds a little extra time to the overall staging process, but the payoff for consumers is a longer vase life. Because of the high throughput of boxes at BOG, it was considered it an essential next step in PFH’s evolution as Colombia’s premier shipper and handler of fresh-cut flowers. Now it’s a real feather in our cap.

Q: So it is used only for shipment of fresh-cut flowers?

A: This system is being used primarily in the handling of our number one export at BOG—fresh-cut flowers. But it also can be used in staging sensitive perishables like fruit, vegetables, and herbs that we expertly handle for our customers.

Q: Why is this process so important?

A: Rapid cooling is an essential step in maintaining the cold supply. The way to ensure the quality and attractiveness of flowers is to cool them as soon as possible after harvest and then steadily maintain optimum temperatures throughout the entire transit and distribution process.

Once packed, flowers are difficult to cool. Their high rate of respiration and the high temperatures of most greenhouses and packing areas result in heat build-up in packed flower containers, unless measures are taken to ensure temperature reduction. Forced-air cooling of boxes with end holes or closable flaps is the most common and effective method for pre-cooling cut flowers. But the vacuum cooling process is that extra special step that few other handlers can offer.

Q: How big is the unit at BOG, and what are the rates for usage?

A: Manufactured by one of the biggest names in vacuum coolers, cold rooms, and ice machines, our advanced ColdMax KMS-4000 system has a processing capacity of 4000 kg/cycle, and is about the size of a two main deck jet pallets. Service rates take into consideration weight, volume, packaging, and other factors, but generally, chargeable weight or gross weight is USD 0.06/kg.

Q: How does vacuum cooling work?

A: Vacuum cooling is based on the fact that water boils at lower temperatures at lower pressures. At about 1/10th atmosphere pressure, water boils at 0°C (32°F). When flowers or plants are placed at these low pressures, the water in their cells “boils,” removing heat. It usually takes only 18-30 minutes to reduce the temperature of multi-leaf products from 35 °C to 2 °C.

Q: Are there other benefits to vacuum cooling?

A: It should be noted that this system also serves as a useful “backstop” for when flowers arrive that either were not properly cooled by growers or have been delayed for any reason along the way to the airport.

They say the weakest link in the flower post-harvest chain can be found at the airport—where the chance of delays is greatest—causing flowers to quickly loose their edge due to temperature mismanagement. But that’s not PFH—we’re your strongest link in the perishables business.

About Prime Fresh Handling

PFH’s global network of offices and bonded and refrigerated storage facilities provides timely and easy access to all of the world’s major markets. With innovative technology, operational proficiency, and friendly customer relations, PFH expertly manages all aspects of the logistics and handling of temperature-sensitive products, from fresh fish, produce, and cut flowers to pharmaceutical products and vaccines.

PFH Bogotá is located at Av El Dorado N. 111-51, TC1 Officina 220, Colombia. Call 57-15185555 or in the U.S. at 1-3055922044. Also visit www.prime-fresh.com.