A Sustainable Investment: The Ripening Center in the Netherlands

After many years of ripening Chiquita bananas in the Dutch town of Gorinchem, the company invested in one of the first (if not the first) carbon neutral banana ripening facilities in the world. Its pioneering design meets high standards of sustainability, product quality and employee well-being.

Benelux Director Franklin Ginus worked with Olaf Van Doren, the company’s expert ripening technician, to develop the new facility for Chiquita Netherlands, which officially opened in November 2011. The building, which houses offices and ripening rooms, features several state-of-the-art technologies:

  • Patented reversed air technology
  • Patented Stop & Go technology
  • Natural refrigerants (ammonia and water) replace emissions-intensive refrigerants
  • T5 (energy-efficient) illumination
  • Movement detectors for control of illumination
  • Recovery of heat generated by bananas during ripening for use in heating the warehouses and offices
  • Optimal use of daylight through roof tunnels in the top of the building
  • An electric car and scooter for low emissions mobility
  • Toilets that use rainwater to flush.

In addition to these sustainability features, this center also provides customers with better service: The precision ripening process improves the taste and texture of the bananas; and monitors quality indicators such as sweetness, shelf life and taste. Customers can collect their orders at their convenience, using a security code to gain access to a temperature-controlled, ready-to-ship storage area.

Employees also benefit: As a result of many suggestions, there are significant improvements in the convenience, safety and comfort of the workplace for both office and production personnel.

The ripening center team developed its strategy to become carbon neutral on two fronts:

  • Reducing electricity use in the operations. The target is a 50 percent reduction per unit compared with the previous facility
  • Offsetting the remaining emissions by buying carbon credits on an annual basis from a reforestation project. An independent third party, Plan Vivo Foundation, validates and verifies the reforestation project.

The carbon footprint of the new ripening facility was calculated at 655 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. This is equivalent to the emissions of 130 cars during one year. Eighty eight percent of this carbon footprint arises from the electricity to operate the facility, according to the Swiss NGO myclimate, which performed the emissions calculations. In 2012, the first full new year of operation, the electricity consumption per box of bananas was less than half the average for 2009-10 at the previous facility, and at 0.84 kWh per box far below the average for comparable facilities.

This new facility is serving as a testing ground: Chiquita will apply the lessons learned in Gorinchem across its network of ripening facilities.

  Gronichem Ripening Facility 1

Have a look inside!