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UK Research project to tackle uneven airflow in potato storages

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) a technology commonly applied in aeronautics (Image Courtesy of Cranfield University), will be used to map the airflow in potato storage in order to improve efficiency in energy use and application of sprout inhibitor.

augustus 22, 2015

A new two year research project will harness the latest aeronautic industry technology to develop testing tools that will help crop store owners to optimise the efficiency of their premises.

The £800,000 project is 70% funded by The Technology Strategy Board and is “industry led”, with lead partner being Crops Systems Limited, the leading store designer and developer.

Other partners are: Branston (crop store operator); Stored Crop Conservation (fogging); Farm Energy Centre (energy efficiency); The Technology Research Centre Ltd (CFD and design software) and Aceto Agrochemicals Chemicals Corporation Ltd (CIPC deposition).

Scientific knowledge and validation for the project will be provided by Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research and Cranfield University.

Managing Director Ray Andrews of Crops Systems Limited says Cranfield University’s involvement is crucial because inability to achieve even airflow is the biggest reason for poor store performance.

Some of the factors adding to the complexity of airflow in potato stores: store use and lay-out, fan capabilities and overall store control

Some of the factors adding to the complexity of airflow in potato stores: store use and lay-out, fan capabilities and overall store control

Benefits from development of a successful tool would be multiple, he suggests, enabling operators to reduce energy use and crop wastage, while also helping achieve more efficient CIPC use, which could help ensure its continuing availability:

Ray Andrews:

“We know that over half this country’s potato stores are inefficient. But many owners are reluctant to make improvements unless they can be sure their investment is going to earn rewards.

“But the efficiency of any potato store is largely governed by the ability to get even airflow throughout the store. Latest research suggests some 60% of current stores fail in this regard, leading to raised costs and increased crop losses due to problems like shrinkage.”

“Poor air distribution also risks inefficient CIPC usage, which can lead to excess residue levels in some parts of the store, while in other parts the crop is at risk from insufficient coverage.”

“The partners aim to develop a tool using detailed maps of airflow, heat/mass transfer and CIPC deposition that will enable operators to take appropriate remedial action in any store when uneven airflow is detected and so achieve optimum store performance.”

“The number of new stores constructed every year is comparatively small, so one crucial aim of this project is to create a solution that is retro-fittable to existing stores, so its benefits can be widespread and so of maximum value to the industry.”

“When the savings in energy and CIPC - allied to the reductions in crop wastage - are added up, we believe there is potential to save the industry £50 million/year.”