South African fresh produce marketer Capespan has unveiled a new cardboard carton design which it says will cut pre-cooling times by as much as 30 per cent by improving airflow, thereby reducing the impact of such operations on the environment.
Developed by ExperiCo Fruit Technology Solutions, the technology development arm of the Capespan Group, the V-channel is based on a dovetailed cut-out in the bottom of a standard cardboard carton. When the bases are pushed out using a specifically designed jig, the spaces form an additional air-flow channel.
According to ExperiCo manager Dr Martin Taylor, V-channel technology in grape cartons containing product packed in carry bags has a significant advantage over standard cartons in that it saves time and energy.
"This obviously is advantageous for quality, but also to move the product faster to the market," he said. "With a 30 per cent reduction in cooling time and a forced-air cooling cost estimated at about R300 a pallet, the V-channel carton can reduce the cooling costs per pallet to R210 if used optimally. Not only does this represent a significant potential saving, the technology also creates the opportunity to reduce carbon emissions at various cold chain points.”
Since being introduced on a commercial basis, the volume of V-Channel cartons used on South African grapes has increased each year, with orders in excess of 1.2m 4.5kg and 9kg cartons in the 2007/8 season.
According to Mr Taylor, no fruit quality problems associated with the use of V-Channel technology have been reported. "In fact, all quality maintenance comments have been positive," he said.
The technology has also been used successfully on a small commercial scale in certain countries outside South Africa this year and is said to be attracting much global interest.
ExperiCo has licensed most carton manufacturers in South Africa to use the V-Channel and jig technology.