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Finding the Right HVAC Conditions to Curb Farm Mortality Environments

Creating custom HVAC solutions for poultry.

Studies estimate that each American consumes an average of 84 lb of chicken per year. In order to meet this demand, poultry farms in the United States raise upwards of 30,000-420,000 chickens on a farm at a time. During the 6-8 weeks it takes for chickens to mature to the size and weight necessary to be processed for consumption, nature takes its course and some of the chickens do not survive. These deceased chickens are stored in freezers where they are then collected and processed as a protein ingredient for animal food and other by-products. The conditions experienced on poultry farms are extreme and often wreak havoc on these freezers, leading to mechanical breakdowns and spoiling much of the reusable protein.

Polar Temp, a Division of Southeast Cooler Corp., saw an opportunity to create a custom solution to address this problem and worked hand-in-hand with its long-trusted partner, Danfoss, to integrate the Danfoss Optyma condensing unit (model LCHC0060RC0003B) with an advanced digital display, electronic Danfoss control, and other Danfoss robust components. Today, this is the leading farm mortality refrigeration system robust enough to endure the demanding conditions found on poultry farms.

“When it came to searching for a partner to create a solution, we decided on Danfoss pretty quickly,” commented Brian Dallman, Manager of Polar Temp. “We had been using them for years and felt that they have the capabilities, innovation and customer service required for a job of this nature.”

According to Dallman, farm mortality refrigeration systems need to have a robust and rugged design to withstand the extreme conditions found on poultry farms. He explains that there are two very distinct issues that make the environment particularly hostile.

The first major issue is out-gassing of highly odorous organic acids. The chickens are stored in the storage unit until a rendering service comes to the farm to pick them up. Freezing the poultry immediately stops or significantly reduces the release of decaying acids into the refrigerated storage environment. However, if some acids are emitted, these acidic elements can quickly go to work on the freezer components, destroying drain tube heaters, evaporator coils and fan motors. At the time, no refrigeration system was able to provide the necessary amount of protection needed to keep the acids from eating away at these core components.

The second issue is the weather. Farm mortality refrigeration units are usually placed in very hot, dusty and humid conditions with little protection from the environment. With the sun directly beating down on the units, Dallman found that current systems were not powerful enough to withstand heat from direct sunlight. Additionally, due to the humid conditions outside, substantial amounts of moisture quickly enters the freezer each time the door opens. This moisture then collects on the evaporator fins, reducing airflow in the unit which will eventually shut down the entire system.

These two distinct issues result in the failure of the freezer’s components. Failure of one or two components often triggers a domino effect that eventually shuts down the entire system, spoiling much of the reusable protein.  Dallman knew there was demand for a solution to fix these issues and partnered with Danfoss to design a custom solution.

Dallman wanted to create a very powerful robust system with protected components that would withstand the extreme conditions. “Danfoss agreed with the insight and provided guidance and together we finalized a design strategy,” says Dallman. Following the planning process, Danfoss went to work on guiding Polar Temp with the system design. Prototypes were built and the team conducted comprehensive testing at the Polar Temp manufacturing facility and in the field at a poultry farm test site.

The result is that the Danfoss Optyma condensing unit proved to fit the demanding requirements. The system is controlled by an advanced Danfoss electronic temperature control with a digital read out indicating power on, temperature, defrost cycles, low or high voltage warning, and other fault codes. The robust system also includes a TU expansion valve; DCL032s filter-drier; SGN 6 sight glass and EVU 2 solenoid valve. These components are the key to maintaining the integrity of the system; however, the team didn’t stop there.  Several additional advancements were made to the system to address the unique challenges found at poultry farms.

Dallman remembers the first issue addressed was how to avoid the damaging corrosion caused by the acid from poultry decaying. Polar Temp and Danfoss started by refitting the fractional horsepower condensing unit, which was being applied to existing Polar Temp ice merchandisers. The application would be similar, but the system needed to be more robust and the components more durable. 

Danfoss upgraded key components of the refrigeration system to better withstand the harsh environment.  Additionally, the evaporator coil was coated with a protective synthetic poly-elastomeric substance over aluminum fin and copper tube assembly. 

Dallman explains that defrost and duration were the keys to dealing with the issue of moisture being introduced to the freezer each time the door is open. In order to ensure product integrity, Danfoss designed a hot-gas defrost system. Activating every 60 minutes, this hot gas system is initiated by the electronic control and is preset at the factory. It is designed to operate without a defrost drain tube to expel condensation, allowing the product chamber drain opening to be sealed and preventing significant frost build up on the coil surface.

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