news Q&A Anothony ScaffidiHe’s a stalwart of the Donnybrook growing and storage scene – we chill with Anthony Scaffidi. As told to Anna Flanders vWA How long have you been in the industry? Anthony Thirty-five years. My parents had apples and I was stacking rooms from 15 years of age. Later I built two cool stores, then we hired out space. vWA How did you start out? Anthony Storing the pink lady export apples. It was a big thing. We stored around 3000 bins. That highexport era went for about seven years, then it just stopped. We moved into potatoes and wine grapes, then were one of the first non-growers to cool store onions when they became a big export product. vWA Was it difficult to switch to onions? Anthony Ten years ago, cold storage for onions was just starting. Back then, they were predominantly put into open-air storage without any refrigeration equipment (and some growers still do this). Cool storage extends their life and it’s reasonably cost effective to cool onions, but they are temperamental with humidity. It took us a while to get the humidity levels right in the early days. If it’s too high, they tend to get mould underneath the skin. vWA How did you learn to get it right? Anthony Through trial and error, and speaking with friends in the game. We shared information and tried different equipment until we got it right. vWA How has cool-room technology changed over the past 35 years? Anthony Probably the biggest change is the logging of information. In the past someone would need to be onsite 24/7. However, now it’s all cloud-based and on camera. We monitor oxygen levels, humidity and carbon dioxide levels at all times through cameras, probes and sensors. We set parameters for the produce in storage, and have information sent to my and a colleague’s phone. If, say, the temperature or another parameter drops or rises it will trigger an alarm on my phone. We still do physical checks, but we can control every aspect of storage remotely. It takes away any chance of human error. The program I use also records the storage history. vWA How detailed is the history? Anthony I’m logging data every ten minutes. The records come out as a graph, so I can easily check the history of the temperature, and more, in the rooms. vWA Where did you get your love for technology? Anthony Dad. Unfortunately, he passed away 12 months ago. He was always active in the food industry and he was always quite ahead of his time – always looking for new technologies, whether for growing or cool storage. He would get quite excited about technological progress for the industry. vWA What are you storing now? Anthony We’ve been full with onions for the past 10 years. However, we are now diversifying into storage of apples, pears, grapes and potatoes.vWA Who would benefit from your storage? Anthony Farmers who don’t have enough storage space and syndicates or companies with marketing rights for a certain product who don’t have facilities. Most growers are fairly good at storing their own produce, and are up to date. The only issue is if a grower only has 100 bins of one line, and a 500- bin cool room, yet needs to run the temperaturecontrolled environment and pay the power on a partially full room. That’s where outsourcing is helpful. It’s more efficient. Some growers don’t store their own produce at all, because of the cost of the infrastructure, they’d rather just put the money into planting more trees or growing more crops vWA Are there any big new trends in the cool storage industry? Anthony Solar power. We’re moving to some solar because power is probably our biggest cost. I can run 30 per cent of my storage at any one time on solar. I want to increase that to 50 to 60 per cent. Refrigeration gases are also changing. But cloudbased software is the biggest advancement. “ I’m logging data every 10 minutes. The records come out as a graph, so I can easily check the history vWA What do you love about the industry? Anthony It’s always new. It’s always different. I’m always learning, researching and looking at ways to increase my offering. It’s also the people we meet and work with. vWA What would be your top tip to farmers installing cool rooms? Anthony One of the first steps is to talk to your insurance company. These companes are clamping down on what sort of products you can use in your new cool room. MORE INFORMATION Anthony Scaffidi 0417 919 906,