Fruitico are table grape farmers based in Western Australia. The family business has grown considerably in recent years, increasing their export business and becoming the number one table grape brand in Asia.

The Project

In 2020-2021 Fruitico decided to expand their cold storage plant in Pinjarra, Western Australia, by doubling their cooling storage to allow for increased grape storage and supply of product. The project required a precise refrigeration control solution to ensure the correct temperature and humidity for the grapes. Local contractor FrigTech WA were engaged to complete the project alongside MECS Electrical & Controls, an RDM Australia partner.

When looking for a control solution for the new plant, MECS introduced Resource Data Management’s (RDM’s) system to FrigTech. This decision was made because of RDM’s record of delivering precise refrigeration and HVAC control solutions and providing excellent customer service. FrigTech WA proceeded to collaboratively engineer a solution with Frigadon – an eco-friendly refrigeration technology developer based in Sweden – as well as with RDM Australia (AU), and RDM New Zealand (NZ). Repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted the ability of the four countries to physically work together and commission parts of the project.

Completing the project on time before the start of the grape harvest season was crucial to prevent profit and stock loss. Excellent cooperation between all parties across four countries ensured that the cold storage plant was ready to go before the grapes were harvested. Pre-commissioning of the Frigadon plant was completed in Sweden prior to shipping and site commissioning was remotely carried out by RDM NZ in conjunction with FrigTech WA and MECS.

The Solution

The refrigeration system designed by FrigTech WA and Frigadon was an R1270 Hydrocarbon Chiller with over 1MW cooling capacity. This is one of the largest hydrocarbon chillers built by Frigadon globally. Using the natural refrigerant propylene, the solution reduces the impact on the environment. The chiller and pump module contained RDM PLC Controllers and expansion modules to efficiently control the plant. The Frigadon plant was delivered to site pre-commissioned, and MECS and Frig Tech WA installed all the field devices and plant.

The refrigeration room control was achieved using RDM’s PLC controller range. The controllers were networked back to RDM’s DMTouch – a control system front-end – which provided a full control solution along with visibility of the infrastructure and alarm management of the refrigeration controllers. This solution was complemented with a 24” touchscreen in the operations office.

After point-to-point commissioning was completed onsite, RDM AU & NZ began uploading the customised PLC logic written using the TDB PLC editor suite. Remote access using the RDM solution allowed fine-tuning and optimisation of the entire plant. The enormous cold storage rooms required multiple evaporators which weighed 1.2 tons each. Some storage rooms required up to four evaporators.

The delays associated with COVID-19 presented challenges for the deadline of completion, as the grape picking season was fast approaching. This season occurs once per annum which meant an extension to the completion deadline was not possible. The project was succesfully delivered on time, providing the client with an efficient and reliable system to store their produce which they continue to be extremely impressed with.

Details of RDM Products and Solutions

The RDM products that were used to deliver the project included:

  • Control and monitoring system front-end DMTouch
  • Chiller controls: TouchXL, Intuitive TDB, 6 x Intuitive Stepper, 6 x Intuitive Power Store
  • Pump Module: Intuitive TDB
  • Storage Rooms: 6 x Intuitive TDB, Intuitive IO Expansion module, 3 x Intuitive 48 Channel Expansion Module, 16 x Intuitive Plant Mini IO, 3 x Mini Intuitive Expansion IO

Environmental Benefits

The benefits of using a natural refrigerant such as R1270 (Propylene) is increased efficiency, improved COP, reduced refrigerant charge, and a low Global Warming Potential (GWP) of just 2 versus synthetic Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) alternatives which can be as high as 3,922.

When coupled with a secondary fluid system, a natural refrigerant provides even more benefits, as the coolers can operate at a lower temperature difference resulting in higher relative humidity (RH)% in the storage rooms. This has advantages in maintaining product quality and reduced weight loss from the product itself.