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Cold storage program lures international group to tour Lanier Tech

POSTED: February 9, 2009 12:26 a.m.

Lanier Technical College director of continuing education Royce Glenn demonstrates maintenance on one of the school's ammonia refrigeration units. Today, some 300 people taking part in a training institute of the World Food Logistics Organization plan to visit the school.

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Today, an international association that specializes in education and information for cold food storage safety will bring a large delegation to Lanier Technical College for a hands-on training session on ammonia refrigeration.

The institute of the World Food Logistics Organization began Sunday and continues through Wednesday at the Georgia Tech Conference Center in Atlanta. The annual meeting moved to Atlanta this year from the University of Oklahoma.

A fleet of chartered buses will transport a portion of the participants, estimated at 300, from Atlanta to Oakwood for a half-day session at the college’s acclaimed training laboratory, a part of the Center for Innovation in Manufacturing.

The center is one of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s statewide innovation centers that specialize in everything from agriculture to computer technology.

Lanier Technical College operates three live ammonia systems — one that cools the building, one for a blast freezer and one for ice manufacturing. It has a 5,000-square-foot engine room and the 20,000-square-foot innovation center, which has both classrooms and space that can be modularly converted to simulate the environment of a manufacturing plant.

"This is a great opportunity for us," said Russell Vandiver, the college’s vice president for economic development. "It gives us a chance to market our training facility to a large audience."

The cold storage facilities were built to serve the poultry industry, but applications now extend far beyond that. Individuals from a broad range of industries employing refrigeration systems have come to the college for training.

"We have a four-day, industry-specific program that offers more than 40 classes that are taught by experts in the refrigerated warehousing industry," said Colleen Caster, an spokeswoman for World Food Logistics.

She said the training program comes at a time when food safety is under intense scrutiny because of the salmonella outbreak, which isn’t related to cold storage.

"The business is the management of temperature of perishable products, which is mostly food, but can include other items such as pharmaceuticals," Caster said. "It’s about keeping the cold chain safe and making sure products move through the cold chain and are stored safely and effectively."

She said most consumers have no concept of the behind-the-scenes effort to chill and protect cold products. Many cold storage warehouses have facilities as large as a football field that are maintained at very specific subfreezing temperatures.

"It is quite amazing to see what goes into harvesting, processing, storage and transporting food," she said.

The Lanier Tech facility, the only one of its kind east of the Mississippi, provides the students, who are from the U.S., India and the Netherlands, with a hands-on environment at the institute.

"This is the first time we’re offering this to our students," Caster said. "Most of our students aren’t engineers, so they aren’t dealing with refrigeration units on a daily basis. But, because they are supervisors and managers in a refrigerated warehouse, it’s important for them to understand the components of the system, how it works and the safety implications."

The institute is a three-year course of study and the students are at various stages of completion. The students primarily represent independent cold-storage warehouses that contract with national manufacturers to store and distribute their products.


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