There is something about biting into a crisp, juicy apple that is simply satisfying. Canada-based BC Tree Fruits Cooperative (formerly Okanagan Tree FruitsCooperative) agrees. However, in recent years, the economic health of the tree fruit industry has become a major concern as growers, particularly those in the apple sector, face increasing global competition.

Aging and outdated facilities, combined with higher food safety standards presented a need for strategic innovation within the Canadian tree fruit industry.

BC Tree Fruits Cooperative called on TriCorp Developments, a Canada-based division of the Versatile Group, to assist with facility performance measures for maximizing their growers' fruit returns. TriCorp would achieve this through innovation and efficiency within the 23 controlled atmosphere storage rooms at BC Tree Fruits' Winfield packinghouse.

TriCorp, which specializes in the design and build of these highly specialized controlled atmosphere rooms, utilized Deland, Fla.-based Kingspan Insulated Panels North Americato fulfill their insulation requirements and aesthetic needs for a complete building renovation and upgrade.

The Okanagan Valley in Canada provides ideal growing conditions for tree fruits, including cherries, peaches, pears and nectarines, but mainly apples. The tree fruit industry in this region creates substantial economic activity in the growing, packing, processing, selling and transporting of fruit, so it is imperative to have optimal controlled atmosphere and cold storage facilities to maintain quality.

The existing controlled atmosphere and refrigerated storage systems at BC Tree Fruits were antiquated and inefficient from an energy utilization standpoint. They required major upgrades with a more sustainable technology to significantly improve the quality of the product, reduce the building's carbon footprint and excessive maintenance costs and give the building a modern makeover.

Scott Baker, long-time installer of Kingspan panels and owner of TriCorp Developments, knew that using insulated metal panels (IMPs) were the only way to re-do these kinds of buildings. Eric Chawla, Kingspan's regional sales manager for controlled environments in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, met with Baker and Bruce Huntley at Kingspan's Langley office in BC to discuss which panels would line the now gutted controlled atmosphere rooms.

Kingspan KS42 Shadowline Embossed Panels were the choice product for sustainability and to ensure BC Tree Fruits' long-term viability in the industry. Kingspan IMPs have a core of continuous, polyiso rigid insulation for R- and U- values.

"With TriCorp's experience in this market, we were quickly able to agree on a panel type for this application and went into production in just a few weeks," says Chawla.

Sealing of controlled atmosphere storage rooms remains a critical requirement for proper operation of the equipment and preservation of the fruit. Apples take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide as starches in the flesh change to sugar. In sealed rooms, this respiratory process reduces the oxygen, thus slowing the ripening process.

The old building had serious pressure differences caused by the inefficient fiberglass-batt insulation over plywood and spray-on foam insulation.

"The rooms couldn't stay sealed, causing severe air leakage," says Huntley, general manager at TriCorp. “In addition to this driving up operation costs, the imbalance was causing shrinkage in the apples and ultimately costing money out of the farmers' pockets. They needed to get the quality and weight back in their apples through increased storage efficiency."

In controlled atmosphere storage, lowering the temperature and oxygen concentration and raising the carbon dioxide concentration reduces the rate of product metabolism. Controlled atmosphere storage reduces the respiration rate and losses of flavor, texture, size, color, etc. by approximately 50% compared to air storage at the same temperature.

Kingspan's Shadowline cold storage wall systems provide superior airtightness to maintain the desired concentrations of oxygen and carbon dioxide. At this rate, apples have greater retention of firmness and acidity—both important aspects of the apple’s crispness and juiciness.

When the proper growing and harvesting techniques are used, many varieties of apples can store for 12 months or longer in controlled environments. Prior to renovation, BC Tree Fruits averaged seven months. Since Kingspan's Shadowline cold storage IMPs were installed, the apples can now be stored for up to a year.

The renovation started in February 2013 with an on-time completion of October 2013. Huntley credits the timeliness to the installation-efficiency of IMPs, which are simple to detail and attach.

Thanks to the new IMPs, the Winfield facility is now said to be one of the most modern and up-to-date packing plants in Canada.