As thousands of representatives from the food manufacturing industry gathered at the FOOMA tradeshow in Tokyo on 13-16 June, several companies displayed their natural refrigerant-based solutions for food processing and freezing applications.
CO2 increasing competition in industrial market
Takahashi Manufacturing, part of Fukushima group, were keen to showcase their CO2 tunnel freezer solution this year after debuting it to large crowds at the FOOMA Japan exhibition in 2016.
The CO2 tunnel freezer is the first of its kind in Japan, designed to be used in combination with a CO2 booster system – completely eliminating the need for ammonia refrigerant in industrial freezing applications.
The first installation was done in March 2016 at a processing facility of Tokyo-based food manufacturer Wellfam Foods Corporation. The installation uses Takahashi Manufacturing’s CO2 tunnel freezer along with Japanese system supplier, Nihon Netsugen Systems’ CO2 booster unit.
“There are many users who don’t want to use ammonia, so there is a large opportunity for CO2 in industrial freezing applications.”Tomokazu Naruta, president, Takahashi Manufacturing
Tomokazu Naruta, president of Takahashi Manufacturing, updated R744.com on the performance of that installation and the company’s vision moving forward.
“It’s been a little over one year and the system is performing well,” said Naruta. “We’ve had no big issues. It runs like a normal freezer, even during the summer months.”
The company has received such good feedback from the end user that it has revised its sales targets and predicts a bright future for CO2 in industrial applications.
“According to Wellfam Foods Coroporation, when they install a new freezer, it will use natural refrigerants,” Naruta remarked. “Immediately after the installation, we were aiming to sell two units per year,” he said. “But now we are aiming for five per year. Soon, CO2 will no longer be unique for industrial freezing applications.”
The system, on display at the show again this year, signifies an increasingly competitive market for industrial freezing solutions.
Takahashi Manufacturing joins Mayekawa and MHI in providing freezer solutions. But Takahashi Manufacturing is the first to use only direct CO2.
Naruta was optimistic about the opportunities for ammonia-free solutions in freezer applications.
“There are many users who don’t want to use ammonia, so there is a large opportunity for CO2 in industrial freezing applications,” he said.
“I believe that in two to three years, after training and education around CO2 has increased sufficiently, people will be well aware that direct CO2 systems can compete with NH3/CO2 cascade systems in freezing applications,” said Naruta.
Installations taking place despite lack of subsidies
Though subsidies are available for cold store operators to install natural refrigerant-based systems, they are not currently available to food manufacturers.
However, this has not stopped end users or manufacturers from continuing to push forward with natural refrigerant-based solutions.
“Our company, as well, needs to take a stand and make our voices heard to get the subsidies back,” said Naruta. “But we also understand that the market needs to be able to make these installations without subsidies.”
“I think it’s possible, because our customer did not need to use a subsidy. And this year we will see more installations, despite the lack of subsidy,” he said.
The unit competes with solutions like Mayekawa’s Chorus Total Freezing solution, which was also on display at the exhibition. The Chorus tunnel freezer is used in combination with the company’s NewTon NH3/CO2 package.
George Miyajima, director of Mayekawa’s food division, talked about the company’s push to reinstate subsidies for food manufacturers, to help them to use the NewTon NH3/CO2 package for food processing applications.
“We would like to accelerate the adoption of HFC-free technology among food manufacturers with our freezer solutions,” said Miyajima.
Regarding the large amount of R22 still in use in this market and the high cost of conversion, Miyajima said: “Food processing associations have submitted a report showing how many freezers are in the market and what percentage of them are still using R22 in order to get subsidies for food manufacturers.”
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Thermal Systems, who also competes in the industrial food processing space, manufactures the CLTS NH3/CO2 system. MHI told R744.com that it had installed 10 such units in Japan so far.
The International Food Machinery & Technology Exhibition (FOOMA JAPAN) is one of the largest exhibitions in Asia for food machinery and food processing technologies. Over 700 companies and close to 100,000 people attend each year. This year marked the 40th anniversary, with an expanded exhibition area to roughly 15,000 square metres.