Drying times for Suffolk’s coastal onion farmers

AN agri-farm firm has invested in a 4,000-ton bulk onion store to enable a six-member business on the Suffolk coast to market its crop throughout the year.

Suffolk Produce Limited, the agri-service provider for the six member farms of Three Musketeers Limited, handles more than 40,000 tons of onions grown on the Heritage Coast from Shotley to Leiston, which equates to around 8% of the country’s annual production.

Historically the onions have been dried and stored in wooden boxes, targeting long term storage and supply windows.

This year, it decided to invest in a 4,000 ton bulk onion store to enable Three Musketeers to market crop throughout the year, maximising potential returns to the farms using state-of-the-art technology from Tolsma, based in Holland.

The storage system uses multiple smaller fans, in this case 30, to provide the constant high air pressures and volumes required to dry the onions after harvest.

The fans are linked via a number of crop sensors to a touch screen control panel and this balances exterior and interior humidities and temperatures to achieve the desired drying conditions.

Suffolk Produce boss Mike Fielden said: “We are only three months into the storage period but already the store has demonstrated great benefits in loading, drying and now cooling and will in the long term enable Three Musketeers to maintain high quality supply to its customers.

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“We are already in developmental stages with Tolsma for our next storage project.”