Ivankovich Farms meet shelf-life and quality requirements for carrot export markets
Subject: Ivankovich Farms Meet Shelf-Life and Quality Requirements for Carrot Export Markets
Business: Ivankovich Farms
Location: Myalup, Western Australia, Australia
Customers: Supermarkets and wholesalers in the Middle East, local carrot juice processor and local markets.
The large size of the country and a sophisticated consumer market means Australian pack-houses are familiar with stringent quality requirements despite a long transport time to supermarket shelves. However, dealing with export markets adds another logistical dimension, alongside shelf-life and quality prerequisites.
Ivankovich Farms packs more than 500 acres of onions, carrots and potatoes, with about 7,000 tonnes of carrots harvested from their own farms yearly. The family operation plants, harvests and packs carrots 12 months of the year in Myalup, Western Australia. 90% of their production is aimed at the export sector in the Middle East.
It takes 30 days for Ivankovich Farms’ carrots to get from Perth to the Middle East ports, and another week to get to supermarket shelves after arrival. Getting the washed and cooled-down carrots into a refrigerated container quickly after harvest is the only way to ensure a quality product is presented to end buyers. Anthony Ivankovich, General Manager, explains that the time had come to review their pack-house operation to meet the challenges of exporting a perishable product over long distance.
“We had grown too fast for our previous packing shed. We were running two shifts to keep up with demand. We used two cool rooms to reduce the temperature of the produce, but carrots tended to dry out, the power consumption was high, and there was a lot of time lost waiting for the carrots to reach the right temperature prior to shipping. We really wanted to streamline our produce flow to reduce operating costs and to improve the quality and shelf-life of our produce for our export customers. We also wanted to build a pack-house that would allow future growth in demand.”
Ivankovich Farms invested in a new and bigger building. Wyma was contacted to look at the arrangement inside the shed, which included a range of new and existing equipment. “We enjoyed working with Wyma. They listen to the grower. They are accommodating and our ideas were implemented. We didn’t look much further as we knew they were the best for carrot handling equipment.”
Wyma designed the new pack-house with two flow paths. The first is for the carrots harvested on the farm, which have to go through a dirt removal process outside the shed and then through a barrel washer to enter the polishing stage with a minimal level of dirt. The second flow path, for pre-washed carrots purchased from outside growers, begins with a Wyma Wet Hopper to remove any loose dirt that may remain.
Both flow paths converge at the Wyma Mega-Polisher. “The Mega-Polisher offers a much better clean and polish than what we had previously. It completely removes the silver lining on the carrots no matter what their shapes are.” says Mr. Ivankovich. “It is also a set-and-forget machine. It does its job at minimal power and labor input, and maintenance is easy. There are a lot of adjustments possible so we enjoy its flexibility, and its large capacity means we can accommodate for future growth if needed.”
A Wyma Screen Sizer is the next equipment in the line to remove any broken carrots prior to entering the cooling phase. Carrots enter the Wyma Hydro-Cooler at 24 to 26°C, and come out at 1.5°C core temperature in approximately 20 minutes. Mr. Ivankovich has no doubt about the worth of this investment:
“It could take 20 hours for about 65 tonnes of carrots to drop down to the right temperature prior to shipping. Now, we can cool 120 tonnes in seven hours in the Wyma Hydro-Cooler. The time and power savings that have resulted are significant. Our quality concerns have disappeared. The carrots look fresher and last longer because it is a rapid cooling method that does not dehydrate the produce.”
Ivankovich Farms opted for an indirect cooling system, using glycol as a secondary refrigerant through the evaporator coils of the Hydro-Cooler. An integrated and centralized refrigeration system separate from the main line uses a primary gas loop to cool down the glycol and re-circulate it to the Hydro-Cooler. One of the main reasons for using a secondary refrigerant was to prevent risks of toxic contamination or flammability in the main line, which could be present if using a primary refrigerant such as ammonia. Ivankovich Farms also requested a larger tank structure to be able to add coils and expand cooling capacity in the future.
Past the Hydro-Cooler, an existing Lift Roller Sizer and three Vibrating Length Sizers direct produce to 10, 15 and 20kg boxes and 1kg pre-pack bags.
Optimal polishing, rapid and effective cooling and a complete streamlining of its operations have resulted in “a fresher product that gets to our customers faster”. The carrots are harvested at 5:30am, and they start coming into the pack-house at 6:30am. About 85 tonnes are washed, cooled, sized and binned within six hours. They are then packed into boxes, stacked on pallets and stored in the cool room at 0.5 to 1.5°C until the refrigerated container arrives to pick them up on the same day.
Mr. Ivankovich points out that the new setup has brought significant benefits beside optimal freshness and shelf-life. “Our employees are happier. We now run one shift only, they have shorter days, they operate reliable machinery. Everybody wants to play with the big Mega-Polisher.” The line has also brought down washing costs per unit of produce because there is no wasted handling. Similarly, water consumption per kilogram of product washed has reduced by about 50%. The Wyma Recycling System on the Mega-Polisher and the water filtration on the Hydro-Cooler have contributed to this significant achievement in a country where water consumption is strictly regulated.