An integrated modelling approach to inform package design for optimal cooling of horticultural produce : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Food Technology at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Forced-air cooling is a widely used pre-cooling process that enables the New Zealand horticultural industry, valued at over NZD $8B in 2016, to maintain the quality of perishable exports. In the typical systems used in New Zealand’s horticultural industry, forced-air cooling involves stacking fruit boxes into pallets, which are stacked together in a refrigerated room, and a fan is used to create a pressure drop through the pallets. This forces cold air through the packaging ventilation and over the fruit, facilitating heat transfer and rapidly cooling the product from the field heat (~20 °C) to the storage temperature (0-2 °C), thus prolonging shelf life and preserving fruit quality. Package design is linked with cooling performance, as the specifics of the ventilation (i.e. placement and size of vents in the boxes) results in different airflow patterns. Unfortunately, it is not well understood how to predict the performance of a hypothetical design, which is partly why in industry and academia there has been a focus on package design testing – where through experimental or computational means, the performance of a given design is thoroughly tested. Trial-and-error experimental work represents a steep materials cost, and construction and validation of detailed mathematical models can be a highly arduous and specialised task. It would therefore be beneficial to the New Zealand horticulture industry and academia to have a suite of methodologies that can simply and rapidly predict performance of a hypothetical package design. It was proposed that such methods are based upon mathematical modelling, with a focus on flexibility, computational efficiency, and automation. The goal is that such a model can be used to rapidly develop mathematical descriptions of a wide variety of products and cooling scenarios, and if integrated with optimisation routines, will allow swift iteration toward an optimised design.--Shortened abstract
Packaging, Design, Mathematical models, Horticultural products, Packaging, Horticultural products, Postharvest technology, Kiwifruit, Packaging, Storage, Air flow, Mathematical models, Heat, Transmission, Mathematical models