With roots dating back nearly 160 years, Dole Food Company, Inc. is today the world’s largest producer and marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables, doing business in more than 90 countries. Founded in Hawaii and now headquartered in California, Dole produces most of its tropical fruits – primarily bananas and, of course, its signature pineapples – in Central and South America.
Among Dole’s core competencies is its ability to not only grow and harvest high quality produce, but to transport and deliver it around the world. Care for perishables starts on the farm and continues through a closed-loop refrigerated supply chain, which includes 11 owned and 13 chartered vessels and more than 14,000 refrigerated containers, making it the world’s largest dedicated refrigerated containerized fleet, according to Dole.
It’s a fleet that has undergone a significant transformation since 2005, when Dole initiated a container modernization program, one in which Carrier EliteLINE® and PrimeLINE® units have played a key role.
Modernization with a Purpose
For Dole, modernization of its container fleet means much more than simply replacing old equipment with new. It’s also about curtailing energy needs, minimizing the environmental impact of the refrigerants it uses and significantly reducing its carbon footprint, all while keeping product quality as its highest priority.
It’s no small undertaking, yet since starting the modernization program Dole is well along the way to achieving its goals. It has already replaced 11,000 container refrigeration units – some of which were as old as 18 years.
While lowering the average age of its containers from 10.6 years to 3.7 years, Dole committed itself to units with scroll compressor technology for energy efficiency and weight-savings benefits, explains Ben Mathews, Dole’s director of equipment operations, based in Costa Rica.
Many of the first purchases in Dole’s modernization program were Carrier EliteLINE units, but since 2008, the PrimeLINE container refrigeration unit has played an increasingly influential role. Approximately 3,000 PrimeLINE units are now owned or leased, supporting Dole’s Latin America operations serving North America and Europe.
Energy Efficiency Leaps
Dole’s results are significant. On average, Dole’s newest container units provide a 46 percent energy efficiency improvement over the older units they’ve replaced.
“As a vertically integrated producer and distributor of fresh fruit, we pay our electric bills at origin and at destination, and the electricity-generation costs on board our vessels, as well,” Mathews says.
“Carrier has always provided equipment that meets our requirements in terms of pulldown capacity, but the PrimeLINE unit was really a ‘step up’ in energy conservation. That’s where the real performance kick came in. It’s one of the most competitive units in the market when it comes to energy efficiency.”
Noting that most of the industry has moved on from aluminum containers to heavier muffler-grade stainless steel containers, Mathews explains, “The other critical factor we look at in a refrigeration system is its tare weight, and that was something that favored the new scroll units from Carrier.
“Every 10 or 20 kilograms (22 or 44 lbs.) you can shave off the weight of the refrigeration system can be added back to the box design, and every opportunity you have to make the box stronger and more damage resistant adds significant value. If you want a container to last 15 years, then you want to be sure you are designing longevity into the box.”
Dole’s modernization has also resulted in a significant reduction in its use of refrigerants, and the company reports its container fleet has been HCFC-free since May of this year. The PrimeLINE unit, like others from Carrier, uses R-134a, a nonozone- depleting refrigerant with the lowest global warming potential of traditional container refrigerants.
It’s About the Quality
“When Dole is selecting equipment, we don’t just look at any one factor. We have to look at all the factors related to the ownership and operation of that equipment,” Mathews says.
“Reliability and service network are two factors that are critical,” he adds. “Here in Central America, it’s safe to say Carrier has one of the strongest service networks of any of the major refrigeration suppliers.
“Dole is all about the quality and integrity of the product,” Mathews says. “Our first priority above anything else is on the quality of the fresh fruit that we ship and deliver. The PrimeLINE units are excellent in terms of temperature control and reliability. We’re very pleased with their performance.”
Carrier’s PrimeLINE unit is helping Dole deliver on all fronts.
“Everything we’ve done in our refrigerated container fleet for the last five years has been geared around reliability, energy efficiency and the environment,” Mathews adds. “When you look at the equipment and what we’ve done with the modernization program, it’s clear that reliability in transit has improved dramatically, energy efficiency has improved dramatically and our carbon footprint has reduced dramatically.”back to top