On February 8, 2018, in the framework of the Fruit Logistica 2018 Exhibition in Berlin, at the roundtable New Technologies of Post-harvest Handling and Fruit and Vegetable Packing, the Interagro Company introduced its innovation – the GeoCool climate vegetable storing system.
The participants in the roundtable discussion New Technologies of Post-harvest Handling and Fruit and Vegetable Packing included: Huib Smith, Commercial Director of Allround Vegetable Processing (Holland), Anna Fagiani, Specialist of the Department of Business Development in Russia and CIS countries, Sorma Group (Itlay), Jan Langerak, Director General of AgroMozaic B.V., Expert on Agricultural Technologies and Vegetable Storage (Holland). The Russian party was represented by: Ekaterina Babaeva, Director General of Interagro, and Roman Nuriev, Commercial Director of Interagro.
The subject of the roundtable discussion were the new, advanced technologies of fruit and vegetable storing, which are presently actively being introduced on the world market. Speaking about new packaging technologies which are presently used abroad, Anna Fagiani, Specialist of the Department of Business Development in Russia and CIS countries, Sorma Group, spoke about multipurpose machines, which can pack the products into several types of packaging at once. Ms. Fagiani also spoke about new dosing technologies and about modern weighing stations, and outlined the trends that are followed by packaging manufacturers all over the world:
“Firstly, it is the multifunctionality of the manufactured equipment and using environmentally friendly materials, which enables us to reduce the cost of package manufacturing,” Ms. Fagiani summed up.
Huib Smith, Commercial Director of Allround Vegetable Processing, in his report called Unique Projects of Allround for Vegetable Distribution Centers and Vegetable Storehouses spoke about the multifunctional lines of post-harvest handling sorting and packing vegetables with optical sorting machines of different types which enable the end-user to obtain high-quality and well-sorted production. Most importantly, however, Allround offers its European and Russian clients turnkey projects of Distribution Centers, from designing a 3-D model of the future Distribution Center with the help of BIM Drafting, to preparing project documents and getting the project approved with the client and the Government authorities, to the installation of equipment and putting it into operation.
“When 14 years ago we started cooperating with Ineragro, there was not a single company in Russia capable of offering turnkey projects of Distribution Centers. Therefore we decided to join our efforts and work in this direction, acquired experience and the understanding of the Russian market, and in the past three years prepared a number of comprehensive turnkey projects of Vegetable Distribution Centers for Russia. We are willing to offer them to the Russian consumer,” stressed Huib Smith.
In his turn, Jan Langerak, Director General of AgroMozaic B.V., recognized as a prominent expert on Agricultural Technologies not only at home, in Holland, but throughout the world as well, spoke about the long term project of import substitution, which the Finnish Government Authorities asked him to create for a group of Finnish farmers. Presently Finland has almost fully given up vegetable imports, having established the all-year-round harvesting of local vegetables and supplying them to the local markets. These results were achieved thanks to simultaneous work with Finnish farmers, retail networks and of course end-users.
“When implementing this project I was fully submerged in it at every stage,” Jan Langerak said. “We studied the climate conditions that farmers work in, the types of soil, the condition of fields, in order to schedule the agro-technological works appropriately and get the desirable result. We were in touch with retail networks in order to understand, which products are in demand in supermarkets, considering everything from the range of products to the taste, shape and color of vegetables.”
According to Jan Langerak, Russia has all the conditions needed for successful import substitution: plenty of soil and water as well as various climate conditions. And most importantly, Russian farms are mainly focused on supplying their products to the market. The problem is that retail networks need all-year-round vegetable supply contracts, while a farmer in any country can supply their products for 6-8 months a year. In order to achieve complete import substitution, the expert recommends Russian suppliers to pay more attention to details:
“Almost all the farmers are able to grow high-quality products, but not all of them are able to store them for a long time, because Russia is short of modern vegetable storehouses. Besides that, the experience of Finland shows that one should follow all the members of the chain: from the type of soil for the vegetables to the way the production is going to look in the supermarket.”
Roman Nuriev, Commercial Director of Interagro, agrees with the fact that Russia is short of modern vegetable storehouses. To back up this statement he quoted that at present the aggregate capacity of Russian storehouses is 7 mln tons, and 80% of them is the off-market Soviet heritage. Meanwhile Russia needs the storehouses to accommodate 3 mln tons of agricultural products. This fact, alongside a high demand for domestic agricultural production, the high cost of Western solutions, as well as the absence of competitive climate systems on the Russian market, encouraged the professionals from the Interagro company to create a new technology for vegetable storage, GeoCool, a combination of European technologies and Russian production, which will enable the Russian end-user to buy products at a price which is competitive for Russia.
“We have borrowed things we do not have in Russia from our foreign partners: compressors, heat exchangers, automatic systems, while we have automation control cabinets, frames, pipes, and other constructive elements,” says Roman Nuriev, Commercial Director of Interagro. “Our GeoCool System contains the same elements as its ordinary counterpart. However, we are using specific components, for example the Bitzer compressors, the Kеlvion heat exchangers, the Siemens automatic components – everything that is recommended for our purposes.
Another advantage of the GeoCool climate systems is that their developer is not using traditional humidification systems. This, as well as the use of specific components made in Europe, makes Geocool innovative in terms of energy saving, which reduces electricity costs by 50%. Speaking about vegetable storage, it should be stressed that the vegetables are preserved thanks to the fine-tuning of temperature in the storehouse. This requires a comprehensive strategy. Therefore, the development of a specific project is based on the customers’ conditions.”
“We are to make sure that the system is efficient. If anything goes wrong with the building, the product will not be stored appropriately,” notes Roman Nuriev. Therefore, we are checking the condition of the building, modernizing the heat insulation and ventilation, choose the appropriate containers, and make sure that they are put in places with appropriate air circulation. Therefore, we are speaking about the storehouse as a single unit incorporating the climate equipment and the building itself.”
The Interagro company has therefore achieved its main goal: while using European technologies and a Russian know-how, it has created an innovative system which ensures a long-term storage and minimizes the loss of vegetables. This has been proved by the practical experience of introducing the new technology in some Russian agro-holdings.
Specifically, in 2016, the GeoCool project was implemented in Gorodische CJSC (which is part of the Malino Group in Moscow Region), which has equipped its 2.400 ton carrot storehouse with the climate systems. Within the first year of the project, the vegetable storage terms increased from 4 to 6-7 months, and the vegetable waste amounts decreased by 50%. Moreover, the electricity costs decreased by almost a half. These results enabled the enterprise to obtain a subsidy from the local Agricultural Ministry division. This agricultural producer plans to utilize more vegetable storehouses, using this technology.
When answering the question about the cost of GeoCool projects, Ekaterina Babaeva, Director General of Interagro, stated that equipping a storehouse for 10 thousand tons of vegetables, will cost about 800,000 Euros, which does not include the construction or the building renovation costs. Nevertheless, it is up to the customer to set the priorities. If the priority is to get their products to large retail networks, the costs are justified.
“Practice shows that in the storehouses equipped with the GeoCool systems carrots can be stored until June. While the carrots are already gone from other storehouses, carrots from our storehouse will still be available and just as fresh and high quality as at the time it was put to storage,” says Ekaterina Babaeva. “It means that the agricultural producer who uses our systems can offer it at a higher price on the market.”
Moreover Ekaterina Babaeva noted a major Distribution Center in the framework of a long term investment project with government support, which will include not only storage, but the post-harvest handling and vegetable packing will pay for itself in 3-5 years.
“The pilot projects have shown that our new development, the GeoCool system is very efficient and is in demand with Russian agricultural producers. We have new customers, and the outlook for our project appears to be very good,” says Ekaterina Babaeva. “It is based on a high demand for domestic agricultural production and the growing desire of Russian agricultural producers to sell their products on the Russian market. The success of this project is ensured by the experience that we already have and by the close cooperation with reliable European partners.”