Ultracongelados del Oja, a Spanish vegetable processor, was experiencing issues with the quality of the rice it was producing via its individually quick freezing (IQF) method. To address the quality concerns, maximize operational hours and effectively freeze large capacities of frozen rice, the company installed an IQF tunnel system.

A rapid freezing method, IQF typically is used for large quantities of loose products. Ultracongelados del Oja’s existing IQF freezer was not individually freezing its rice products, resulting in product clumping. As well as poor quality results, the factory had significant downtime issues due to the frequent defrosting of its IQF freezer during production.

The new IQF tunnel freezer, manufactured and supplied by Starfrost, utilizes a twin-belt fluidization system. The first belt zone provides crust freezing and includes a vibratory conveyor, which creates a wave-like motion to separate the rice grains. Rapid surface conditioning ensures optimum appearance and yield while preventing product clumping and sticking. The second belt is a deep-freezing zone to complete the freezing process after the initial crust freeze.

The tunnel freezing system also includes a Starfrost sequential defrost system. The sequential defrost system means the freezer coils are defrosted in a preprogrammed sequence during production, allowing for longer operational times.

"The Turbo rapidly freezes our products and the fluidization maintains separation, improving the quality of the frozen rice," said Pilar Garcia, director at Ultracongelados del Oja, part of the international corporation Virto Group. "Also, with the addition of the sequential defrost system our production time has increased, and we have reduced downtime by 50 percent."

The system is adaptable to freeze other food products, which allows Ultracongelados del Oja to expand production to freeze peas and beans during the harvesting season.