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The new CONO Kaasmakers cheese dairy is ready. An exciting moment for John Mijnen, Project Manager for new construction projects at CONO Kaasmakers. ‘But the old cheese dairy will only close when we can reproduce the quality and characteristic flavour of the Beemster cheese in the new dairy. But to do that, you have to work together with partners that understand cheese. And ENGIE Refrigeration (formerly known as Cofely Refrigeration) is exactly that kind of partner.’
The first batch of cheese produced by the new cheese dairy was a milestone, but it is no guarantee that you have real Beemster cheese. ‘In the next few months we’ll be implementing tests and trials aimed at ultimately matching CONO’s current quality level,’ says Mijnen. ‘It’s the total process of producing, pickling and maturing that creates that authentic creamy flavour. And refrigeration plays an important role in every step of the process.’
ENGIE developed an ice-water installation that uses a system of pipes – like a vital artery − to supply ice-water to all the processes and locations that need to be refrigerated. For example, after the milk is delivered from the farm it is thermised and again cooled back to 4 degrees so that it stays fresh for longer. And the maturation warehouse and even the head office are also cooled with this system.
‘Refrigeration plays an important role in every step of the process’
‘Besides increasing our production capacity, the new cheese dairy also gives us the hygiene level that you need nowadays when you’re producing food. And when the milk quota is abolished in 2015, we’ll also have to be able to process more milk.’
‘Our ambition is to build the greenest cheese dairy in the world. A cheese dairy that blends into the unique landscape of the Beemster polder, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999. You have to meet very strict requirements when you want to build in the Beemster polder. That’s why we began by designing the exterior. It was only then that we were able to integrate the production systems. That usually happens the other way round. To do that, we tried to find a partner that didn’t just have the required knowledge and experience but that could also think along with us. They had to be creative, and that’s why we chose ENGIE.’
All the construction partners were challenged to come up with innovative solutions that save even more heat, cold and water. ENGIE developed a new ice-water installation that uses the natural refrigerant ammonia. This type of refrigerant has a low global warming potential. So in this way, CONO Kaasmakers and ENGIE are working together to build a sustainable cheese dairy.
To guarantee the unique flavour and creaminess of every Beemster cheese, during the maturation process the air must be blown uniformly over the cheese. ENGIE first built a mini-warehouse to test the optimal maturation process for the cheese and then developed an advanced pipe system based on the results.
Mijnen: ‘It’s not just about the design and construction of systems – it’s also very important that we can work well together. The ice-water installation also had to be integrated into the construction process. During a job like that, it’s easy to get in each other’s way, but everything went really smoothly thanks to the way ENGIE worked together with the other contractors.’
CONO Kaasmakers is a cooperative that was founded in 1901 and has more than 475 members that supply milk. In 2001, the then 100 year-old cheesemaker was awarded the title ‘Purveyor to the Royal Household’. The cheese dairy in the Beemster polder produces the well-known Beemster cheese as well as cheeses such as Stompetoren and SmaaQ. Mijnen: ‘The new cheese dairy will officially open in November. Up until then and beyond, we’ll be checking, testing and adjusting until we have exactly the right flavour and quality. In the meantime, production will continue at the old cheese dairy.’