Thursday, 24 April 2014

Flowers Love Controlled Temperature Not Just Cold Storage

Florist cold room
The world loves cut flowers, or so it seems. As a consultant in the cold room industry for many years, I have been involved in the supply of cold rooms for many florists and flower shops so I know the storage requirements of cut flowers and have seen first-hand just how big a business this is.

is an example of a great mini cold room that, whilst popular with labs, fast food outlets and bakers, is used a lot by florists for on-site storage. It's compact, easy to assemble, comes in a range of options and very easty to use. It is a 'blooming' winner :)

There's one particularly interesting aspect to the flower industry - that of shipping cut flowers. Amsterdam, which is undeniably the world's biggest flower shipping hub, sees more than £2 billion (GBP) worth of flowers shipped through it's international airport at Schipol every year.

Cut flowers in a bouquet
Other airports are trying hard to compete because of the growth in the cut flowers industry. However, they are not finding it easy. The trouble is that there are no refrigerated aircraft. Flowers have to be flown in cargo planes or the cargo hold of passenger aircraft and whilst these are of course cold places, the temperature is not controlled, and therein lies the problem. Apparently, the best temperature range for flowers once they are cut is 32-38 deg F.

So if controlling that temperature is not possible during flight transportation what can the shippers and the airports do between them to minimize possible damage to the cut flowers before they arrive at their eventual destination for resale?

From what I understand, these are the steps they like to implement:
  1. The flowers are cut and packed as quickly as possible
  2. They are immediately loaded into a refrigerated truck for transportation to the airport
  3. At the airport they are offloaded into a refrigerated warehouse
  4. The flowers then go through a pre-cooling process - ie. if there is warm air inside any of the packed boxes it is vacuumed out to allow faster cooling.
  5. The airports try to schedule as many cut flower flights as possible to leave between the hours of 10am and 6am. It is estimated that about 98% of all cut flowers transported by plane every year are on this timetable.
This is a lot of work and requires great co-ordination between a vast network of people - and all because there are no refrigerated planes.

Now there's an idea ....  the invention of the flying cold room!