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Spotlight: Keeping it cool

Processors try different ice systems to increase efficiency, extend product shelf life

Processors work to reduce losses by testing new ice
    systems. - Photo courtesy of Sunwell
By Lauren Kramer
June 01, 2009

Processors can eliminate losses due to shrinkage and shortened shelf life by using an effective ice machine tailored to the requirements of a specific seafood operation. Just ask Prince Edward Aqua Farms, a seafood processor that handles Malpeque oysters, clams and blue mussels.

Prior to investing in a Deepchill™ variable state ice system, the Prince Edward Island, Canada, company was using a flake-ice system but found that it did not cool fast enough, melted quickly and was inefficient.

"Our goal was to reduce drip loss and increase shelf life by maintaining a colder core temperature, especially during the mussel spawning season in June and July," says Jerry Bidgood, PEAF general manager. "The flake-ice system required a lot of manual labor as ice had to be shovelled into every box and vat."

After installing a Deepchill system from Sunwell, PEAF was able to use seawater to produce up to 5 metric tons of dry ice, 
or almost 10 metric tons of 
Deepchill slurry ice per day, pumping it automatically to four locations at its facility.

"The Deepchill system gave us an automatic method for icing that got in between every mussel in every bag, ensuring fast cooling of the entire product," Bidgood says. "It can be packed more densely, so we get more ice into the boxes, and that gets us 10 to 12 days of shelf life from our mussels. Our competitors, who use other types of ice, can only get seven days of shelf life. Deepchill has helped us improve as a company financially, and allowed us to supply consistently superior quality product that our customers recognize and keep returning for repeat orders."

Sunwell's Deepchill system can discharge three different forms of slurry ice; liquid slurry for rapid chilling, a thick paste for overnight storage and dry snow-like crystals for packaging seafood. Each system is tailored to its specific application.

"A typical customized Deepchill System for a processor would include a Deepchill generation module, a storage silo and a delivery system," says Simon Goldstein, VP of Sunwell Technologies in Woodbridge, Ontario, the icemaker's manufacturer.

The module allows processors to generate Deepchill using off-peak power. The storage silo allows processors to store Deepchill crystals in an insulated, thermos-like silo without requiring any additional refrigeration, energy or raking/auger mechanism. Finally, the delivery system allows processors to discharge Deepchill slurry anywhere in a processing plant in the ideal thickness for each desired application.

"The liquid Deepchill slurry is ideal for fish receiving and rapid chilling, while the thick Deepchill paste allows for constant temperature for overnight storage or transportation," says Goldstein. "The dry, snow-like Deepchill crystals are used for packing and weigh less than traditional ice."

Deepchill systems are installed in more than 30 countries in locations varying from fishing vessels to processing plants and aquaculture operations.

Corrosion prevention is a critical feature of any ice machine. That's why Chicago-based Howe Corp. started using stainless steel and other corrosive-resistant materials to improve the reliability and sanitation of its flake ice machines. With production capacities ranging from 1,000 pounds to 40,000 pounds per day, Howe's flake ice machines are considered among the most energy efficient in the industry.

The company, which was founded in 1912, introduced a 25-year warranty on its machines in 1992, though "many of our customers own Howe Ice Flakers that are 40 years old," says Kevin McCool, executive VP.

Howe's basic flaker design has not changed over the years, but the type of refrigerants used in the industry has, particularly in response to global warming and ozone depletion. Howe's latest development is a line of flake ice equipment that operates on carbon dioxide.

"The working pressures of CO2 are higher than with most other refrigerants, but CO2 is one of the most environmentally friendly refrigerants," McCool says. While the number of CO2 refrigeration systems is limited to a handful of supermarkets and seafood processors in the United States, McCool anticipates it will be a strong growth market in the years ahead.

One of Howe's customers is Kildare Fisheries in Alberton, Prince Edward Island. Until five years ago, the company purchased ice for its operations, but after analyzing the costs, Kildare owner Jamie Rayner opted to purchase a Howe Flaker instead.

"A machine like this pays for itself," says Rayner, who has since purchased four more Howe units. "Flake ice is gentler on seafood products, while cube ice can dimple the product, causing damage. In the seafood business, the value of quality can never be underestimated."


Contributing Editor Lauren Kramer lives in British Columbia



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