Proper cooling of produce is critical to maintain the quality and nutrition of food. The single most important factor that prevents food degradation is maintaining a proper food temperature. Through refrigeration by units produced by Semco, major spoilage processes are prevented. The first is that the processes of ripening and premature softening are slowed at lower temperatures. Refrigeration also prevents wilting and moisture loss. Lastly, refrigeration prevents significant food quality and safety issue by preventing bacteria, fungi and yeast from growing. Among many cooling methods, hydrocooling is an effective pre-cooling method that aids in food quality.
The Hydrocooling Process
Hydrocooling is an effective process by which cooled water is used to bring the temperature of produce down. After produce is harvested, it can have a temperature between 50 to 80 degrees. This is commonly referred to as field heat. If the fruits, vegetables, and grains are not negatively affected by the process, they can be pre-cooled with hydrocooling.
Hydrocooling involves submerging produce in a tub of refrigerated water or passing produce through a stream of cooled water. Additionally, some machines will recycle to water used in the process while adding sanitizers to the water to help clean the produce as it is cooled. Water is more effective at quickly pulling heat out of produce compared to air-cooling. This allows field heat to be rapidly removed, slowing the spoiling process.
Limitations of Hydrocooling
Hydrocooling is a an efficient cooling process but does not work for all types of produce, is not as energy efficient compared to other methods at lower temperatures, and functions only as a pre-cooling and not a standalone cooling method. Certain produce should not be soaked or sprayed with water after harvesting. A few examples of fruit and vegetables that cannot be hydrocooled include celery, carrots, cabbage, blackberries and beets. In certain cases, the produce can be damaged by hydrocooling. In certain fruits and vegetables, extra water absorption by produce can also increase the speed of spoilage or decrease the structural integrity, taste, or quality.
Increased Speed and Decreased Energy Efficiency
Room cooling utilizes an air-conditioned room to bring down the temperature of produce. Hydrocooling is much more rapid than room cooling, but the hydrocooling process is not as energy efficient as room cooling. Maintaining a low water temperature required for the hydrocooling process take significant amounts of energy. This means that hydrocooling is a fast, efficient way of quickly removing heat, but it is not suitable for complete cooling to optimal temperatures because it would require too much energy.
Hydrocooling Is Not a Standalone Method
Hydrocooling is designed to quickly decrease the temperature of produce that is not sensitive to wetting, but it is not designed to maintain it at a low temperature. In addition to energy efficiency concerns, most produce could not be continually stored in cold water without significantly decreasing its stability, taste, and quality. To design an effective cooling process, hydrocooling should be an introductory method to decrease the temperature of sensitive produce rapidly so that it can be stored in a cold room and maintained at the correct temperature.
Semco designs high quality cooling and freezing systems ideal for produce, food, and many other industrial and commercial applications. We are always happy to help our clients find the produce cooling system that is best for their needs. All of our systems are also customizable and can be designed to customer specs. For more information about cooling methods for specific types of produce please browse our past articles.