Custers Ref Afb (5)

Condensation drying for onions and potatoes

  • Dry and store independent from the outside air
  • Drying onions twice as fast
  • Maximum 2% dehydration of potatoes
  • No or minimal use of sprout inhibitors
  • Product quality is better preserved
  • Maximum energy efficiency, CO2 neutral

What is condensation drying?

ENGIE Refrigeration has developed a new way of drying and storing potatoes, onions and other agricultural products. A solution with which you are no longer dependent on weather conditions and expensive sprout inhibitors, and with which you can operate in an energy-neutral way: condensation drying. This results in better preservation of the quality of your potatoes and onions and considerably lower (up to 80%) energy costs, or in other words, higher profits.

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Drying onions twice as fast? Or storing potatoes with a maximum of 2% dehydration?

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How does condensation drying of arable products work?

The condensation dryer is a hybrid cooling and heating installation in one, which makes this technology unique. It brings the air below condensation point so that a lot of moisture can be removed and then used to dry products like potatoes, onions and bulbs. The heat released during this process is reused to keep products at the right temperature during the storage period.

Whereas the energy-efficient heat pump dries products quickly or keeps them at the required temperature, solar panels generate the fraction of energy needed for this. In this way, maximum energy efficiency is achieved. The system is even energy positive. The entire system is controlled by an in-house developed operating system, which can be operated and monitored both locally and remotely via a PC or smartphone.

“This results in an optimal return.”
- Sander Tacken, directeur
Taco Agro
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Conventional storage method: loss of quality and high costs

For a long time, arable farmers have depended on the outside air to dry and store their products after harvesting. However, the quality of the outdoor air rarely fully meets the requirements to guarantee the quality of the products during the drying and storage process. In addition, climate changes cause too many fluctuations in outdoor air conditions.

To solve this problem, the outside air is heated with gas heaters. This enables the air to absorb more moisture, but uses a lot of gas. The additional disadvantage is that 1.6 kilograms of moisture are released per kilogram of propane gas burned. This moisture must also be removed again, with an additional 10% gas consumption. Storing arable products in this conventional way therefore not only costs money but also impacts the quality of the products. Thanks to condensation drying, this belongs to the past, if only for the simple fact that you no longer need outdoor air or gas heaters.

Condensation drying: existing technology applied again

It is not new to store products like this. We have been using this technology for years in cheese warehouses and climate chambers. The results in this industry got us thinking and ultimately led to the development of an effective approach to preserving arable products such as onions and potatoes. Our rich experience in various industries helps us to innovate continuously. It inspires us to translate techniques that work well elsewhere and in other markets. The condensation drying technique for arable products is a good example of this.

Multiple applications possible

ENGIE Refrigeration has developed and successfully applied the condensation drying system for the drying and storage process of onions. The technology has now been further developed so that arable farmers can also benefit from it when storing potatoes and other crops. Potato growers in particular benefit from the condensation drying technology because it offers a solution to the ban on the chemical sprout inhibitor chlorpropham. We are also investigating the possibilities for other products, such as ginger, flower bulbs and even valerian.

‘Now we can dry our onions twice as fast, regardless of the outside air conditions’
- Roger Custers, owner
Custers' Farm
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The results of condensation drying

Since the introduction of condensation drying, the enthusiasm among arable farmers is growing and dozens of installations have been running in The Netherlands and abroad. Growers are very enthusiastic because they have much more control over the product during the drying and storage phases. They are able to keep the product longer and therefore respond to market conditions better. The margins on the product are still good at the end of the season. Read more about this in the references.

Awarded with a sustainability label

The energy-efficient drying and storage technology has also been awarded the Solar Impulse Efficient Solutions Label. With this, it may call itself one of 1,000 clean and profitable solutions in the world that are environmentally friendly and have a short payback period.

Mechanical storage

With mechanical storage, you can store products longer and better. Therefore, you can respond to price developments in the market better. Mechanical cooling ensures the right conditions for your products. This way, the drying and storage process is much more efficient and you are no longer affected by the outdoor air conditions.

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Henk Tebben
Henk Tebben
Agriculture | Storage | Horticulture