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New greenfield table grape farm on the Orange River

By John Ackermann

Taking advantage of the growing export demand for South African table grapes, a new farm, Berekisanang (meaning, ‘we all work together’ in Setswana), went on stream for the 2016 harvest.

Berekisanang has two 200ha sites, one for table grapes and the other for citrus fruit. Neither of the sites is in full production. For the 2016 harvest, the grapes were packed in the field at one of 180 packing stations and the cartons transported to the new cooling facility. Being packed in the vineyard adds to the cooling load of the cooling tunnels, as generally (and in the future at this farm) the grapes are pre-cooled prior to packing. Even so, the new advanced cooling system was able to cool the grapes to a pulp temperature of 2°C within 16 hours in each of the four new cooling tunnels.

The refrigeration system designed by CoolCheck Consultants uses a novel cooling system where the airflow through the pallets is reversed for a period to ensure even cooling throughout the cartons.

The refrigeration system has a capacity of 250kW and is currently operating with R507A, but it is capable of being retrofitted with a lower global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant in the future. This was an important consideration, said Wimpie Spangenberg, owner of the refrigeration installers Noord tot Suid Elektries en Verkoeling.

Each of the refrigeration compressors is fitted with a variable frequency drive, not only to save power but also to closely match the cooling capacity with the refrigeration load. The cooling load varies considerably between the time the tunnels are first loaded and when all the grapes have reached temperature. Not being able to match the load stably is often a major problem in plants of this type. However, CoolCheck, with many years’ experience, has developed sophisticated control algorithms to ensure smooth running and a very close variation (0.3K) in cooling air temperature. Due to the high ambient temperatures, the plant uses an evaporative type condenser.

Many table grape producers anticipate double-digit growth as South Africa enters new markets, particularly in the East.

Apart from the cooling tunnels, the refrigeration system also cools both a holding room to store the cooled pallets from the tunnels, and an airlock where incoming cartons are palletised.

Over a nearly 20-year period, the engineers at CoolCheck Consultants and Noord tot Suid Elektries en Verkoeling have become experts in the rapid cooling of fruits.

“The racks at Berekisanang were the first of the new generation CoolCheck designs and performed beyond expectations. The cooling rates with our second Orange River installation of new generation racks in November proved equally good, and we are extremely positive about meeting the demand for improved rates of cooling export fruit,” adds Spangenberg.

Many table grape producers anticipate double-digit growth as South Africa enters new markets, particularly in the East.

“Cooling rates of freshly harvested grapes have a vast impact on our throughput, in particular in the Orange River area that has a short harvesting window, and we need to reach foreign markets ahead of our competitors. Rapid cooling, without any loss of quality, is of extreme importance,” says Jacques Clift at Berekisanang.

Project team

Refrigeration consultants  CoolCheck 
Refrigeration installation  Noord tot Suid Elektries en Verkoeling
Insulated paneling IDS
Refrigeration rack Phoenix Racks 
Evaporative condenser Evapco

Cooling coils

Colcoil Heat Exchangers




Airlock-Cool-pallets-are-dispatched-from-an-airlock,-which-has-temperature-control-.JPGCitrus-plantation---The-newly-established-orchard-of-citrus-at-Berekisanang-.JPGTable-grapes-The-grapes-are-kept-under-netting-to-protect-them-from-birds,-and-the-vineyards-are-surrounded-with-electric-fencing-for-security-.JPGGrapes from the field go on the red squares and after palletised for cooling on the yellow squares.JPGNameboard-The-Berekisanang-farm-was-established-as-a-greenfield-project-in-harsh-dry-terrain-.JPGEvporative-condenser-Because-of-the-high-ambient-temperatures,-an-evaporative-condenser-was-selected-.JPGMachinery-room-The-insulated-plant-room-houses-the-new-generation-of-CoolCheck-racks-manufactured-by-Phoenix-Racks-in-Cape-Town-.JPGScada-system-Operating-parameters-of-the-refrigeration-plant-are-viewed-on-a-monitor-in-the-supervisor’s-office-.JPGColdstores-The-new-facility-at-Berekisanang-has-cooling-tunnels,-a-dispatch-bay,-and-an-area-for-making-up-pallets-.JPG


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