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Preparing and auditing your store in advance of the new season

Publication Date: 
4 August 2016

Knowing is key to controlling the conditions

“The quickest wins can be had in not simply assuming your store is operating as you believe,” explains independent potato consultant, Simon Alexander.

“Check, measure and monitor to be sure. It’ll reveal those things to recalibrate in order to obtain the performance levels you expect to achieve.

“If you’ve had spots of rot and breakdown this past season you may be assuming it was inherent qualities in the crop such as seed quality and skin set rather than the store conditions.

“However don’t rely on any assumptions, investigate those hotspots thoroughly to ensure you know the store environment isn’t favourable to development of disorders in future stocks.

“Whether you have a box or bulk store, some top checks to undertake:

1. Ensure total air volume available is what you expect it to be.

2. Consider how to rectify air flow issues where dead spots or condensation are evident.

3. On the back of a mild winter, do not take store integrity and insulation levels for granted - A typical potato store needs 75-125mm of polymer insulation.

4. Check that all control sensors are calibrated to ensure efficient regulation of the store environment.

5. Set yourself up to be CIPC compliant sooner, allowing you to take advantage of the benefits earlier.”

 

What it means to be 2017 CIPC ready

Requirement for active recirculation: This necessitates a fan to provide even movement and recirculation of airflow, during and after CIPC application (until the fog has cleared).

In a bulk store: This will consist of a ventilation system to provide recirculation of airflow through the stack.  Reducing airflow velocity (compared with normal ventilation) is recommended when applying CIPC and can be achieved by using variable frequency drives (or inverters) or other suitable means.

In a box store: Even recirculation of airflow is key. This can be achieved using the main purpose-built ventilation system or a temporary one with auxiliary fans, plenums, or other means to provide uniform airflow and recirculation.

One point is clear though; for 2017 and beyond, unmodified overhead throw systems will not be acceptable.

 

Ventilation and air uniformity

”Check ventilation and uniformity of air distribution as they can be critical to effective storage as stored tubers continue to respire,” further advises Adrian Cunnington, SBCSR.

“In particular, high value, early season crop requires good, controlled ventilation as the newly lifted material’s respiration rates are especially high at warm ambient temperatures.

“While duct systems can achieve this in bulk stores, in most box stores there is a need to ensure that air can get to all parts of the building and that effectiveness is not compromised by short circuits as air will always take the path of least resistance.

“Further key checks to carry out on areas that can impact ventilation and air flow:

  • Ensure the air path is not restricted, compromising temperature control.
  • Check boxes are stacked to provide clear, even air circulation around the store.
  • Ensure air ducts are unobstructed and in good repair and lateral shutters work smoothly.
  • Inspect louvres closely for damage or misalignment that prevents them closing fully.
  • Consider the use of an air divider curtain in overhead throw box stores.
  • Ensure fans are working effectively; they can often use at least 50 per cent of a store’s electricity consumption each year, so it is essential to ensure they are performing at their best.

 

Energy Efficiency

“There are multiple opportunities to save on energy costs and increase the efficiency and performance of your store” explains Jon Swain, Farm Energy.

“Through AHDB funded work with SBCSR on project R439 we found some of the areas for big wins included leaky buildings (between 30% and 50% energy savings possible); refrigeration systems, where there can be double the difference in performance between some of the best & worst systems; and insulation (potential for 2.5% to 10% savings).”

 “In terms of air leakage, our data from 2014 shows around 30% of stores were beyond acceptable limits; this means that those stores are leaking to an extent where they could be costing as much as 50% more to run.” Jon Swain at the Farm Energy Centre.

Book in for a StoreCheck+ audit, which will fully assess your store’s performance prior to a consultation with a specialist to work through the report’s findings and discuss the next steps for improvements. (Call 01406 359414 or visit potatoes.ahdb.org.uk/storecheck)

“The evidence also leads us to conclude that many refrigeration systems out there could well be underperforming. But in the real world replacing the entire system can prove unaffordable,” admits Jon Swain.

“There are some simple alternatives you can easily look to do at much less expense:

  • Check for the correct levels of refrigerant and oil
  • Reduce recirculation of any hot air into your condenser
  • Improve or add to elements of technology in your current system, for example optimising your condenser size or installing electronic expansion valves

 

Future-proof any investment

“Most importantly perhaps, don’t just purchase a solution for today,” asserts Simon Alexander

“There will always be a sales offer that addresses your immediate concerns and matches your current budget, but be sure to consider what additions and improvements you will need in the future and how they will fit with this current investment.

“For example, if this year you’re planning on putting in a plenum for gassing but can’t afford new refrigeration units this time around, be sure the chamber you put in will allow options for additional equipment to be easily added in later.

“Don’t be satisfied to commit to an expense that seems affordable now, but may actually cost more later.”

 

Further Final Checks

Machinery maintenance and basic store hygiene - Download the store managers guide for information and guidance on these key areas of store management and care.

Staff refresher training - SBCSR runs an annual two day course for growers and store managers who are involved in the day-to-day management of potato stores.The course content includes: store management principles, control/monitoring, sprout suppression options (CIPC application & stewardship, ethylene use, environmental and residue management), achieving quality for markets and energy efficiency; and is delivered through talks, group discussions and interactive workshop sessions. Keep an eye on potatoes.ahdb.org.uk/events for details of the next course date. 

Storage costs -  Assess your storage costs and ultimately the performance of your store with the simple, excel-based Storage Cost Calculator

AHDB Potatoes also provides free general storage advice and information to levy payers from its team at SBCSR - call the Storage Advice Line free on 0800 02 82 111

Visit potatoes.ahdb.org.uk/storage for tools, checklists and further guidance on managing your store.

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