This website uses cookies primarily for visitor analytics. Certain pages will ask you to fill in contact details to receive additional information. On these pages you have the option of having the site log your details for future visits. Indicating you want the site to remember your details will place a cookie on your device. To view our full cookie policy, please click here. You can also view it at any time by going to our Contact Us page.

Produce handling facility offers impressive carbon reductions

07 June 2019

Halo, a new multi-temperature fresh produce handling facility, has pledged to save over 1.5 million kilos of CO2 during the course of its 2019 operations. Suzanne Gill finds out how the company intends to do this and looks at the operation in more depth. 

Halo is owned by the SH Pratt group, an importer and ripener of bananas and is the result of its wish to develop and diversify its existing business. The company identified a gap in the market for a service provision business, based in the fast-growing DP World London Gatewate, to process and pack incoming chilled fruit and vegetables. The resulting Halo facility houses 110,000 sq ft of chilled, frozen, ripening and added-value space. It was officially opened in November 2018.

At present the facility is at 50% capacity – not bad for a speculative project, with no confirmed customers on the day the building broke ground. It is a big site, with 8,000 pallet spaces and currently around 40 containers every day are being processed. However, the facility is designed to have the capacity to handle 80 when it reaches full capacity. 

DP World London Gateway is the port-of-entry for fresh produce shipped into the country from South American South Africa – including pears apples, cherries, kiwis, grapes and tomatoes. Traditionally, fresh produce has been brought straight into the port in containers, which are loaded onto transporters and moved on to inland facilities where value is added. 

SH Pratt created Halo to challenge this model by offering a facility to add-value to the produce close to the port. This greatly minimises the carbon footprint of fresh produce, as Gavin Knight, managing director at Halo explained: “On average, a container lorry will consume nine miles to-the-gallon, generating 1.38 kilos of carbon emissions per mile. By processing goods at the port-of-entry, Halo is removing the need to move up to 100 containers every week. We expect to be able to eradicate over 1.2 million ‘food miles,’ or 1.5 million kilos of carbon emissions in a year.”

“Our real point of difference is that we can eliminate many miles from the supply chain. Already the CO2 savings have proven to be incredible,” added Wayne Milne, operations director at Halo. “Since we opened we have already saved 180,000 miles of road haulage by simply not taking the container out of the port. Traditionally the containers would be moved by road to a processor or packer. Ninety percent of these containers would then have to be returned to the port empty. By eliminating this step the average saving per container is around £300, achieved by simply offloading the produce from the container and reloading it into a refrigerated trailer for its onward journey for packing or processing.” 

Ensuring safety
Food safety within the facility is ensured by a dedicated technical and compliance team. “We do not yet have BRC certification, as we need to show three-months of records first. However, we could receive a BRC unannounced audit at any time now. The facility does not have any critical control points but we do need to ensure that our food safety plan is continuously adhered to – for example not introducing any allergens into the environment and ensuring that our refrigerated areas remain within specification,” continued Milne.

Cleandowns occur after each production run but this is done more for staff health and safety reasons and to ensure maximum equipment efficiency, than for food safety reasons. “The cleaning schedule frequency is determined by a risk assessment of the process,” said Milne.

Currently the facility has contracts to pack grapes, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, citrus fruit, pineapples and melons. Once produce has been offloaded from the containers into the storage area of the facility, which operates around the clock, they undergo a quality control assessment in line with individual customer specifications. Produce is then either reloaded onto a refrigerated trailer or it is moved into the processing area which houses a variety of packaging lines. 

“While our choice of packaging machinery is mostly dictated by our retail customers, within the limits set by them we have tried to identify the most energy efficient solutions – turning to electronic motors instead of compressed air where possible.” 

On the production floor there are two PA Automation packaging lines, a Proseal line and a trayless flow-wrapping line from Redpack Packaging Machinery, which is able to pack produce of inconsistent size. A further Proseal line is due to be installed very soon.  These lines only half fill the space available in the processing hall, so there is plenty of scope for expansion. However, the company wants to first ensure that it is seeing maximum productivity and efficiency from its existing equipment.

On the day I visited the facility we saw grapes being packed into punnets and heat sealed with a plastic film on the PA Automation lines. The grapes arrive at the facility loose in 9kg boxes and are portioned into punnets and then sent to the customer’s distribution centres. I also saw the P325E-T Redpack trayless flow-wrapping line in operation, packing tomatoes. This machine offers Halo a flexible solution as it is configured to wrap trayless tomatoes in either a four or six pack format, but can also be reconfigured to wrap punnets of fruit, if required.
Yamato average weight machines are placed near the end of all the packaging lines to ensure that the weight of each pack is within specification. The Yamato CSI22 checkweighers, with pusher reject devices, are able to run at speeds of up to 120 ppm. Data from these machines are sent to customers on a daily basis from Halo’s ERP system to allow them to balance the workorder.

“For BRC compliance we also need to be able to account for all products entering and leaving the facility, so even waste product is weighed,” said Milne.

Chilling solutions
We moved on from the production area to the chilled storage part of the building. This area is split into seven different rooms, which are all able to run at different temperatures – anything from -28°C up to ambient. The flexible cooling system is continuously monitored using a controller that provides remote alarms if any area of the stores moves out of its specified limits.

“Our cold-storage centre has been designed to be environmentally-effective, and we also operate our own on-site rainwater collection and effluent management plants,” said Milne. Two Star Refrigeration Azanechillers were specified for use in the cold-storage area as they had already proven themselves at another SH Pratt site. The company also supplied a refrigeration solution for the freezer rooms. Ammonia as a refrigerant can offer energy savings due to its thermodynamic properties, which provides better heat efficiencies when compared to a HFC refrigerant. Ammonia is also an environmentally-friendly refrigerant that is not affected by F-gas legislation. The inclusion of variable speed compressor drives and condenser fan motors the chillers ensures they the units will offer good part load performance during low-load conditions.

To remove paperwork where possible, Halo has employed SafeFood 360, a technical portal which houses its quality manual, cleaning schedules, HACCP assessments and audits. Employees use tablets instead of paperwork to input information and quality assessments are undertaken on tablets too. This means that there is always live, real-time data about the plant to hand and available for any auditing purposes. 

Contact Details and Archive...

Print this page | E-mail this page