Finding innovative ways to reduce energy consumption in fruit storage

A cross-border study researches innovative technologies to reduce energy consumption during storage of apples and other fruit. Commercial tests and awareness raising contribute to helping businesses become more competitive.

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The project researches ways of storing fruit in a less energy-intensive way. © Dr. Dominikus Kittemann The project researches ways of storing fruit in a less energy-intensive way. © Dr. Dominikus Kittemann

" The energy savings we were able to achieve are of 20 % to 50 %. In addition, the project has shown that there is still a big potential for energy savings in modern fruit storage technologies. The search for more effective and sustainable cooling systems will be a big and important challenge for the coming years. "

Dr. Dominikus Kittemann, project manager

Fruit, traditionally a seasonal food, is nowadays available through the year. A steady intensification in storage technology, however, has not only often contributed to improved quality maintenance and increased product range availability, but has also led to considerably higher energy use as fruit is stored for longer periods. Temperature control, which is the most important factor to maintain fruit quality during storage, requires energy, particularly for the refrigeration compressors and the ventilation fans.

Energy savings of up to 50 %

Domestic businesses are at a double disadvantage: imported fruit is often not only cheaper, but stored domestic fruit can also have worse energy and CO2 balances during certain periods of the year compared to imported fruit. Less energy-intensive ways of storing fruit could therefore raise the competitiveness of this regionally important economy.

The research project, which is carried out at a pomiculture (fruit-growing) research centre in south-western Germany (Lake Constance Region) and partner institutions in Switzerland, studies possible strategies of reducing energy consumption without losing fruit quality. First results have shown that energy savings up to 50 % are possible by raising the storage temperature from 1° C to 4° C. In combination with modern storage methods like the application of the ripening inhibitor 1-Methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) or the dynamic controlled atmosphere (DCA), characteristics such as fruit firmness, sugar content and acidity do not suffer from the storage at higher temperature, providing that fruit handling is realised according to good postharvest practice.

Further research on better air control and use of waste heat

In addition to the temperature studies, the project also conducted research on optimised airflows in storage areas in a fruit wholesale warehouse. Possibilities of using the waste heat generated during fruit storage were studied as well.

Seminars for fruit growers, owners of storage facilities and retailers accompanied the project, in order to raise awareness of the issue and facilitate technology transfers. In addition, results are published in grower magazines, scientific journals and at national and international scientific events.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Development of innovative strategies to reduce energy consumption in fruit storage” is EUR 1 002 000 with the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) contributing EUR 255 000 through the “Alpenrhein-Bodensee-Hochrhein” operational programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.

Draft date