Prepared Foods

Fluidized bed freezer doubles IQF shrimp output

Fluidized bed freezer doubles IQF shrimp output – BOC Gases’ bed freezer; Neptune Foods

Neptune Foods, Los Angeles, utilizes more than 300,000 sq. ft. of processing area and 50 million lbs. of freezer capacity to produce IQF shrimp scampi for major restaurant and foodservice customers. Product demand has become so great that Neptune recently needed to upgrade its freezing systems.

“BOC supplied our two tunnel freezers and two spiral freezers, and has shown an ability to solve our production problems in the past,” says Hector Poon, Neptune vice president. “We needed to at least double our output. The main problem was the wet, sticky nature of the raw, peeled and deveined shrimp. We had product sticking to the freezer belt and to each other – eroding efficiency and leading to product loss due to damage. We needed a new approach.”

The shrimp scampi line had originally been configured to run raw shrimp through a cryogenic tunnel freezer utilizing C[O.sub.2]. Workers then hand-fed the frozen shrimp into a butter and garlic coating applicator. The product next traveled through a second tunnel freezer to set the coating before packaging. This line processed about 200-250 lbs. of shrimp per hour, not nearly fast enough to meet Neptune’s growing demand.

The solution was BOC s newest system – the KwikFreeze fluidized bed freezer. The patent-pending system combines several different freezing technologies to produce IQF products while requiring minimal floorspace and operating expenses. Two models are available – the KFF 18-5 rated at 2,000 lbs./hr., and the KFF 27-9 rated at 5,000 lbs./hr. The KFF 18-5 met Neptune’s needs.

“The small footprint of the KFF 18-5 – less than six feet by seven feet – allowed us to easily install it at the front of the line,” says Poon. “We did have to install a nitrogen supply system, as our other BOC freezers utilize C[O.sub.2], but the numbers more than justified that expense.”

With the fluidized bed freezing system, the outer layer of the shrimp is instantly crust-frozen by an immersion process, preventing product clumping. The KFF 18-5 routes high-velocity cold vapor through the belt to lift and gently tumble individual shrimp, ensuring better quality of the IQF product. This combination of immersion and fluidization enables highly efficient use of cryogen gas.

Our output for the line immediately jumped to more than 500 pounds per hour, more than double our previous rate. Product loss has been cut by 20 percent, and our overhead and labor costs have been practically cut in half,” reports Poon. “In fact, the line has tested as high as 2,000 pounds per hour, but our present method of feeding the butter and garlic coating applicator is limiting the throughput. We hope to redesign that stage in the future to take full advantage of the new equipment.

Complete with self-diagnostics, safety interlocks, an automatic exhaust system, and three full-length easy-access doors, the new freezing system is easy to operate and easy to clean. “Equipment clean-up time is a serious concern for us,” notes Poon. “But the KFF 18-5’s design and access doors make a 45-minute job out of a clean-up procedure that takes more than three hours on other processing equipment.”

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