Fruit exporters get state of the art cooling facility

Fruit destined for export transferred to reefer containers from cold rooms.

The month of June saw the commissioning and opening for business of the latest cold storage facility from SAFT (Southern African Fruit Terminals) a subsidiary of the Belgium owned SEA-invest Group.

The 5 500 pallet capacity facility occupies 17 105m2 under roof on one section of a 70 120m2 site in Abland’s rapidly developing Atlantic Hills Business Park, situated on the Potsdam interchange giving direct access onto the M12 and M13 and immediate access onto the N7. The remaining portion of the site is for future expansion.

“This location provides easy access to Cape Town Harbour and our other facilities in Killarney Gardens and Paarl, but most importantly for farmers and co-ops transporting fruit for export.

“The fruit destined for export is directed to the Atlantic Hills facility from all parts of the country, not just the immediate locations in the Western Cape” explained managing director Ockert Henning.

“This new investment is the latest initiative to capture a sizable portion of the cold storage business of the rapidly growing fruit export market. Our Killarney Gardens facility (4 200 pallets) opened in 2014 and we upgraded the Paarl facility three years ago to increase capacity to 5 600 pallets”. Together with its Bayhead facility in Durban, SAFT has a combined refrigerated storage space of around 20 000 pallets.

“As with our other sites, SAFT Atlantic is a state-of-the-art refrigeration facility specifically designed to protect the cold chain integrity and to load perishables into containers destined for export markets. We build this cold store taking our existing clients’ needs and growth potential into consideration. The facility is ideally designed to cater for specifically subtropical fruit, citrus, grapes, stone fruit and pome fruit” he said.

Meeting the demand

The new SAFT Atlantic facility provides the following services:

  • Total capacity of 5 500 pallets
  • Steri capacity of 2 800 pallets
  • Container Loading Bays: 20 (airlock loading)
  • Container plug-in points: 20
  • 34 Forced Air-cooling Tunnels
  • 5 Cold room of 550 pallets capacity each (pre-cool with racking)
  • 2 Airlocks for loading and offloading already chilled product
  • 2 Phytosanitary Inspection facilities
  • Undercover offloading areas

Cold Steri Precooling

All shipments are precooled according to DAFF/PPECB guidelines to meet the sterilisation requirements of the destination countries. Fruit for these shipments are monitored via a computerised system throughout the entire process, backed up by staff on duty 24/7, giving full traceability while under constant monitoring. The loading of each container destined for a Steri market (USA, China, Israel, India, Reunion, Indonesia, Nigeria, Thailand, Taiwan, Jordan, Madagascar and Sri Lanka) is supervised by a PPECB (Perishable Products Export Control Board) inspector.

In addition, inspection facilities are provided for PPECB and inspectors from destination countries who inspect outgoing shipments on-a-daily basis at this 24/7 facility.

“Demand for cold store services follows the seasonal fruit cycle and our current staff of 70 staff members is supplemented at periods of high demand from nearby communities such as Du Noon. We have created an additional 50 job opportunities with the new facility and we have been able to accommodate staff from our Port operation which we are in process of closing” said Henning.

Dependable utilities

Operating a 24/7 cold store, particularly one the size of Atlantic Hills, requires dependable electrical and water supplies and to cater for unexpected outages, SAFT has installed three standby generators able to provide continuous power for the site’s energy hungry evaporative cooling plant. “Work have started on a 1 440 kWp solar panel array to supplement our energy requirements. Some recent fires at cold store and packhouse installations have highlighted the risks imposed by such facilities and our new plant is fully sprinkler protected. An independent 1Mℓ water supply is housed in two giant tanks which feed one electrical and one standby diesel driven fire pumps, connecting to the sprinkler and fire-fighting systems” he explained.

“The Atlantic Hills facility is a landmark that will transform the landscape of cold storage in the Western Cape fruit export industry”.

A project of this size becomes successful when choosing the right location, developer (Abland), main contractor (Isipani), professional team and suppliers who are deadline driven and provide an attention to detail within their own area of expertise and supply. In the planning stages it was outlined that all and any conditions of hindrance on our facilities’ operations were addressed, ensuring continued operations without any downtime.

MAXtend Atmosphere Control

SAFT is the distributor of MAXtend in South Africa.  MAXtend is a technologically advanced controlled atmosphere product used to control the composition of atmospheric conditions in sea freight containers. By controlling the atmosphere in refrigerated containers, it is possible for produce that previously had little chance of arriving in a good condition, due to extended transit times, to arrive in the same or better condition than when shipped by air.

MAXtend is unique in the sense that it can be fitted to any reefer container. The container undergoes a leak rate test to ensure it complies with the MAXtend criteria before it is released from a container depot for stuffing.

Other distinct advantages of MAXtend are summarised as follows:

  • Slows ripening through slowing down the respiration and production of ethylene
  • Reduces decay in incidents and severity
  • Short notice availability
  • Can be used anywhere in the world