We have come across many unusual applications for our ice machines over the years but this one has to be in our top three.
It's no secret that compost generates heat and most of us will have seen steam rising off a compost heap at some time or other.
Q. So why on earth would you want to add ice to compost?
A. When you want to control the temperature for a particular reason or more specifically, when you want to control the temperature of what's growing in the compost.
To the right you can hopefully see mushrooms in compost. It might not be pretty but there is more going on than meets the eye.
Mushroom farmers have been growing their crop in compost for decades but in recent years they have learned that if you control the temperature of the compost, you control the growth rate of the mushrooms. This adds a valuable layer of predictability to the process. and is just as important during transportation of the product, if you want to be sure that the mushrooms are not already past their best before they reach their destination.
Choosing the right type and size of ice is also important for this application, so that you ensure you have the required melt rate for the application. In the last few years we have carried out a considerable amount of trials with our customers to establish the best solution.
Adding ice is proving to be a really successful means of creating consistent, good quality crops that can be timed much more accurately, so that they are the right size and in the best possible condition when they are due to be processed. This is great for the process but also has other fringe benefits.
Because the ice melts at a predictable rate, it also means that you are adding moisture to the compost in a controlled manner, which is beneficial to the crop but also adding moisture in this way reduces the risk of parasitic infestation. Parasites can destroy a mushroom crop, which has obvious consequences.
A secondary but still important consideration is how we introduce the ice into the compost and this depends entirely on the size of the processing operation. In some cases it is a batch process where it is appropriate to add the ice manually and in others cases the process is continuous. Continuous processes require much more thought and consideration. In some cases we will propose an automatic silo and a conveyor system, which will dose the ice into the process automatically, at a fixed rate.
In other cases the rate of production may vary and we would propose a PLC controlled system which can modulate the ice addition to suit the production rate.
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