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Title:
CONTAINER FOR FRESH PRODUCE, AND METHOD OF VENTILATING A STACK OF SUCH CONTAINERS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/111088
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
According to the invention, a container (1) for fresh produce comprises a tray (2), a lid (4), an elevated carrying platform (3), and a ventilation shaft (7). The ventilation shaft is extending from the elevated carrying platform in the direction of the open top of the tray. Multiple ones of the container are stackable on top of one another to form a stack of containers. When stacked, the interior shaft spaces of the ventilation shafts of the stacked containers are in in-line fluid-flow communication with one another along the longitudinal shaft directions, while at the same time they are in sideways fluid-flow communication with the interior container spaces. The invention provides for a highly effective ventilation flow, which is extending through a stack of containers, more or less similar to a chimney- like air-draught.

Inventors:
GONLAG AALTJE THEODORA (NL)
Application Number:
NL2016/050870
Publication Date:
June 21, 2018
Filing Date:
December 14, 2016
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
NNZ BEHEER B V (NL)
International Classes:
B65D81/26; B65D51/16; B65D85/34
Foreign References:
US2900955A1959-08-25
CN2887785Y2007-04-11
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
JANSEN, C.M. (Carnegieplein 5, 2517 KJ Den Haag, NL)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

1. Container (1) for fresh produce, comprising:

• a tray (2), which comprises a bottom wall (5), a circumferential outside wall (6) and an open top (8) for insertion and removal of the fresh produce, wherein the tray has a first bottom -passageway (51) through said bottom wall;

• a ventilation shaft (7), comprising a longitudinal shaft direction (17), a circumferential shaft wall (9) around said longitudinal shaft direction, an interior shaft space (30) being defined by at least said circumferential shaft wall, and a first shaft end (11) and a second shaft end (12), lying mutually opposite in said longitudinal shaft direction, wherein:

- the first shaft end and the second shaft end are open

longitudinal ends of the ventilation shaft, and

- said circumferential outside wall of the tray circumferentially envelopes the circumferential shaft wall;

· a lid (4) for closing and opening the container, wherein:

- the container has a closed condition in which the lid is covering said open top, and an open condition in which the lid is removed from said open top for insertion and removal of the fresh produce, and

- the lid has a first lid-passageway (41) through the lid; · an interior container space (10, 20) for containing the fresh produce, said interior container space being defined by at least said bottom wall, said circumferential outside wall and said ventilation shaft; and

• an elevated carrying platform (3) for carrying the fresh produce, wherein:

- the elevated carrying platform is located at an elevated level relative to the bottom wall (5), - the elevated carrying platform is dividing the interior container space (10, 20) into an interior ventilation space (20) and an interior storage space (10), the interior ventilation space being located in-between the bottom wall and the elevated carrying platform,

- the ventilation shaft is extending with its longitudinal shaft direction from at least said elevated carrying platform in the direction of said open top, which corresponds to the direction of said second shaft end of the ventilation shaft, and

- the ventilation shaft is connected to said elevated carrying platform at a transverse circumferential cross-section (14) of the

circumferential shaft wall, wherein said transverse circumferential cross - section circumferentially envelopes a first platform -passageway (31) through said elevated carrying platform;

and wherein said tray, said ventilation shaft, said lid, said interior container space and said elevated carrying platform are arranged in such manner that multiple ones of the container, in their respective closed conditions, are stackable on top of one another to form a stack of containers (1, 1A) in a stacked condition, in which:

- the bottom wall of each upper container (1) of said stack is resting on the lid of a corresponding lower container (1A) of said stack,

- the interior shaft spaces (30, 30A) of the corresponding ventilation shafts of said upper container and said lower container, respectively, are in in-line fluid-flow communication with one another along the corresponding longitudinal shaft directions (17, 17A) and via the first lid-passageway (41A) of the lid (4A) of the lower container and via the first bottom -passageway (51) of the bottom wall (5) of the upper container, and

- the interior shaft spaces of the corresponding ventilation shafts of said upper container and said lower container, respectively, furthermore are in sideways fluid-flow communication with the corresponding interior container spaces of said upper container and said lower container, said sideways fluid-flow communication being branched-off from said in-line fluid-flow communication.

2. Container according to claim 1, further comprising:

- at least one second platform-passageway (32) through the elevated carrying platform (3) of the container (1), said second bottom- passageway not being enveloped by said transverse circumferential cross- section (14);

- at least one outside-wall -passageway (61) through the circumferential outside wall (6) of the tray (2) of the container and/or at least one second lid-passageway (42) through the lid (4) of the container;

and wherein, as seen in said stacked condition, said sideways fluid-flow communication is realized at least via a sideways fluid-flow path (80), which provides fluid-flow communication between said interior shaft space (30) of the container (1) and an exterior environment (40) of the container, said exterior environment being located on a side of the circumferential outside wall (6) of the container facing away from the ventilation shaft (7), in that said sideways fluid-flow path (80) is at least partly extending:

- in said interior ventilation space (20);

- through said at least one second platform-passageway (32); and

- through said at least one outside-wall-passageway (61) and/or through said at least one second lid-passageway (42). 3. Container according to claim 2, wherein the lid (4) has a first circumferential abutment portion (91), extending in circumferential direction around said longitudinal shaft direction (17), and wherein the ventilation shaft (7) has a second circumferential abutment portion (92), extending in circumferential direction around said longitudinal shaft direction, and wherein, as seen in said stacked condition, said first circumferential abutment portion of the lid and said second circumferential abutment portion of the ventilation shaft are lying against one another.

4. Container according to claim 2 or 3, wherein the circumferential shaft wall (9) has no passageway therethrough.

5. Method of ventilating a stack of containers (1, 1A) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the method comprises controlling a gas to flow at least along the corresponding longitudinal shaft directions (17, 17A) through the corresponding interior shaft spaces (30, 30A) of the corresponding ventilation shafts (7, 7 A) of the containers of the stack.

Description:
Title: Container for fresh produce, and method of ventilating a stack of such containers.

The invention relates to a container for fresh produce, wherein the container comprises a tray, which comprises a bottom wall, a

circumferential outside wall and an open top for insertion and removal of the fresh produce. The invention furthermore relates to a method of ventilating a stack of such containers.

Containers based on such a tray, which is a relatively flat device, are often used for storing certain types of small vegetables or fruits. The reason is that, in many cases, these kinds of products are not suitable to be directly stacked onto one another in more than one or only a few layers. If stacked (too high) onto one another, these products may easily get bruised by mutual product pressure and/or may easily receive too little ventilation, which will shorten their shelf life considerably. Mainly for these reasons, flat tray -based containers are often used for these kinds of products, wherein every container contains only one or only a few layers of the products, and wherein the containers are stacked onto one another.

However, in stacked tray -based containers there still is the drawback of non-optimum ventilation of the produce. Especially the portions of the produce located in the central regions of each flat tray in a stack of trays tend to receive poor ventilation. It is noted that optimum ventilation of the produce is particularly important immediately after harvesting the produce. That is, the quicker the temperature of the produce is reduced after harvesting, the longer the shelf life of the produce will be.

It is an object of the invention to provide a solution according to which vulnerable fresh products are packed in such manner that bruising of the products is prevented, while at the same time the packed products are reliably ventilated at all times, also when the packings are stacked onto one another. For that purpose the present invention provides a container according to the appended independent claim 1, as well as a method of ventilating a stack of such containers according to the appended

independent claim 5. Preferable embodiments of the invention are provided by the appended dependent claims 2-4.

Accordingly, the invention provides a container for fresh produce, wherein the container comprises:

• a tray, which comprises a bottom wall, a circumferential outside wall and an open top for insertion and removal of the fresh produce, wherein the tray has a first bottom-passageway through said bottom wall;

• a ventilation shaft, comprising a longitudinal shaft direction, a circumferential shaft wall around said longitudinal shaft direction, an interior shaft space being defined by at least said circumferential shaft wall, and a first shaft end and a second shaft end, lying mutually opposite in said longitudinal shaft direction, wherein:

- the first shaft end and the second shaft end are open

longitudinal ends of the ventilation shaft, and

- said circumferential outside wall of the tray circumferentially envelopes the circumferential shaft wall;

· a lid for closing and opening the container, wherein:

- the container has a closed condition in which the lid is covering said open top, and an open condition in which the lid is removed from said open top for insertion and removal of the fresh produce, and

- the lid has a first lid-passageway through the lid;

· an interior container space for containing the fresh produce, said interior container space being defined by at least said bottom wall, said circumferential outside wall and said ventilation shaft; and

• an elevated carrying platform for carrying the fresh produce, wherein: - the elevated carrying platform is located at an elevated level relative to the bottom wall,

- the elevated carrying platform is dividing the interior container space into an interior ventilation space and an interior storage space, the interior ventilation space being located in-between the bottom wall and the elevated carrying platform,

- the ventilation shaft is extending with its longitudinal shaft direction from at least said elevated carrying platform in the direction of said open top, which corresponds to the direction of said second shaft end of the ventilation shaft, and

- the ventilation shaft is connected to said elevated carrying platform at a transverse circumferential cross-section of the circumferential shaft wall, wherein said transverse circumferential cross-section

circumferentially envelopes a first platform-passageway through said elevated carrying platform;

and wherein said tray, said ventilation shaft, said lid, said interior container space and said elevated carrying platform are arranged in such manner that multiple ones of the container, in their respective closed conditions, are stackable on top of one another to form a stack of containers in a stacked condition, in which:

- the bottom wall of each upper container of said stack is resting on the lid of a corresponding lower container of said stack,

- the interior shaft spaces of the corresponding ventilation shafts of said upper container and said lower container, respectively, are in in-line fluid-flow communication with one another along the corresponding longitudinal shaft directions and via the first lid-passageway of the lid of the lower container and via the first bottom -passageway of the bottom wall of the upper container, and

- the interior shaft spaces of the corresponding ventilation shafts of said upper container and said lower container, respectively, furthermore are in sideways fluid-flow communication with the corresponding interior container spaces of said upper container and said lower container, said sideways fluid-flow communication being branched-off from said in-line fluid-flow communication.

Hence, the container according to the invention is a tray-based container, which, as explained above, is suitable for preventing bruising of packed vulnerable products. Furthermore, the abovementioned ventilation shaft, and the abovementioned in-line fluid-flow communication and sideways fluid-flow communication that it offers, allow the packed products to be reliably ventilated at all times, also when the packings are stacked onto one another. In fact, the invention provides for a highly effective ventilation flow, which is extending through a stack of containers, more or less similar to a chimney-like air-draught.

Furthermore, thanks to said elevated carrying platform, a controlled distance is provided in-between the products in the container and a surface on which the bottom wall of the container is resting. This controlled distance, in the form of said interior ventilation space, provides for a controlled ventilation underneath the products. Especially the combination of the thus created interior ventilation space with the ventilation shaft provides synergistic effects regarding said controlled ventilation underneath the products, since the interior ventilation space of its own would normally be prone to forming a dead-flow area underneath the products. That is, the ventilation shaft provides for a very effective air- draught, which prevents the occurrences of such dead-flow areas.

In a preferable embodiment of the invention, the container further comprises:

- at least one second platform-passageway through the elevated carrying platform of the container, said second bottom -passageway not being enveloped by said transverse circumferential cross-section; - at least one outside-wall -passageway through the

circumferential outside wall of the tray of the container and/or at least one second lid-passageway through the lid of the container;

and wherein, as seen in said stacked condition, said sideways fluid-flow communication is realized at least via a sideways fluid-flow path, which provides fluid-flow communication between said interior shaft space of the container and an exterior environment of the container, said exterior environment being located on a side of the circumferential outside wall of the container facing away from the ventilation shaft, in that said sideways fluid-flow path is at least partly extending:

- in said interior ventilation space;

- through said at least one second platform-passageway; and

- through said at least one outside-wall-passageway and/or through said at least one second lid-passageway.

Thanks to these features, which are providing that said sideways fluid-flow path is at least partly extending through said at least one second platform-passageway, the elevated carrying platform functions as a distribution platform for the ventilation flow along the sideways fluid-flow path. This distribution platform allows the produce in the interior container space to receive an evenly distributed ventilation flow.

In a further preferable embodiment of the invention, the lid has a first circumferential abutment portion, extending in circumferential direction around said longitudinal shaft direction, and wherein the ventilation shaft has a second circumferential abutment portion, extending in circumferential direction around said longitudinal shaft direction, and wherein, as seen in said stacked condition, said first circumferential abutment portion of the lid and said second circumferential abutment portion of the ventilation shaft are lying against one another. Thanks to these features it is promoted that fresh ventilation flow and used ventilation flow through a stack of containers remain separated from one another.

In a further preferable embodiment of the invention, the circumferential shaft wall has no passageway therethrough.

These features provide an alternative or additional means of promoting that fresh ventilation flow and used ventilation flow through a stack of containers remain separated from one another.

The invention is furthermore embodied in a method of ventilating a stack of containers according to any one of the abovementioned

embodiments of the invention, wherein the method comprises controlling a gas to flow at least along the corresponding longitudinal shaft directions through the corresponding interior shaft spaces of the corresponding ventilation shafts of the containers of the stack.

By controllingly applying such a forced gas flow, the

abovementioned advantages of containers according to any one of the abovementioned embodiments of the invention, are enhanced in a

synergistical manner.

The abovementioned aspects and other aspects of the invention will be apparent from and elucidated with reference to the embodiments described hereinafter by way of non-limiting examples only and with reference to the schematic figures in the enclosed drawing.

Fig. 1 shows, in a perspective exploded view from above, an example of an embodiment of a container according to the invention.

Fig. 2 separately shows the tray of the container of Fig. 1 in a perspective view at the bottom side of the tray.

Fig. 3 shows a cross-section through the abovementioned "stack of containers in a stacked condition", based on two identical ones of the container of Fig. 1, and wherein the shown cross-section is a vertical cross- section according to a mid-plane through the stack of containers, which mid- plane is indicated by arrows III in Fig. 1.

The reference signs used in the abovementioned Figs. 1-3 are referring to the abovementioned parts and aspects of the invention, as well as to related parts and aspects, in the following manner.

1 (upper) container

1A lower container

2 tray

3 elevated carrying platform

4 lid

5 bottom wall

6 circumferential outside wall

7 ventilation shaft

8 open top

9 circumferential shaft wall

10 interior storage space

11 first shaft end

12 second shaft end

14 transverse circumferential cross-section of the circumferential shaft wall

17 longitudinal shaft direction

20 interior ventilation space

30 interior shaft space

31 first platform-passageway

32 second platform-passageway

33 foot of elevated carrying platform

40 exterior environment

41 first lid-passageway

42 second lid-passageway 51 first bottom -passageway

61 outside-wall-passageway

91 first circumferential abutment portion

92 second circumferential abutment portion

It is noted that the container 1 of Fig. 1 is the same as the upper container 1 as shown in Fig. 3. The lower container 1A as shown in Fig. 3 is, as mentioned above, identical to the upper container 1. In fact, all parts and aspects relating to the lower container 1A which are alike to the parts and aspects relating to the upper container 1 have been indicated in Fig. 3 by the same reference numeral, but with the suffix "A" appended thereto.

It is further noted that, for reasons of simplicity, Fig. 3 shows a stack of only two containers. Generally, of course, stacks of much more than two containers may be applied according to the invention.

Based on Figs. 1-3, and with the aid of the above-recited meanings of the reference signs, the abovementioned aspects of the invention will be readily apparent. Some further elucidations are given below.

As shown in Fig. 2, the elevated carrying platform 3 at its bottom side has four feet 33, which provide that the elevated carrying platform 3 is located at an elevated level relative to the bottom wall 5 of the tray 2 of the container 1. These feet 18, however, are of course not visible in Fig. 3, since the cross-section of Fig. 3 is according to the mid-plane III of Fig. 1, while this mid-plane does not have the feet 18.

As compared to Fig. 1, Fig. 3 additionally shows the optional outside-wall-passageways 61, 61A through the circumferential outside walls 6, 6 A, respectively.

In Fig. 3, the various shown bold arrows are indicating directions of the abovementioned ventilation flow through the various passageways, spaces, inter-spaces, and the like. In the shown example, this ventilation flow is the result of controllingly forcing a gas to flow in upwards direction through the interior shaft spaces 30, 30A of the ventilation shafts 7, 7A of the containers 1, 1A of the stack. The larger bold arrows, shown in the interior shaft spaces 30, 30A, correspond to the abovementioned in-line fluid-flow communication. The smaller bold arrows, shown in the second lid- passageways 42, 42 A, in the outside-wall -passageway 61, 61 A, in the second platform-passageway 32, 32A, and the transitions from the interior shaft spaces 30, 30A towards the interior ventilation spaces 20, 20A, correspond to the abovementioned sideways fluid-flow communication.

It is noted that according to the invention, controllingly forcing a fluid to flow in upwards direction through the interior shaft spaces of the ventilation shafts of stacked containers, may generally involve that the first lid-passageway 41 of the lid of the uppermost container in the stack, may optionally be closed off to a more or lesser extent, to thereby control the ratio of the extent of the sideways fluid-flow communication relative to the extent of the in-line fluid-flow communication.

It is further noted that, according to the invention, instead of forcing a fluid to flow in upwards direction through the interior shaft spaces of stacked containers, the fluid may of course also be forced to flow in downwards direction through the interior shaft spaces.

Fig. 3 clearly illustrates that the elevated carrying platforms 3,

3A function as distribution platforms for the ventilation flow along the sideways fluid-flow path. These distribution platforms allow the produce in the interior container spaces to receive an evenly distributed ventilation flow.

In Fig. 3 it is furthermore seen that the first circumferential abutment portion 91 of the lid 4 and the second circumferential abutment portion 92 of the ventilation shaft 7 are lying against one another. As mentioned, this promotes that fresh ventilation flow and used ventilation flow through a stack of containers remain separated from one another. This can be understood when thinking of an imaginary different situation in which in Fig. 3 the first circumferential abutment portion 91 of the lid 4 and the second circumferential abutment portion 92 of the ventilation shaft 7 would not lie against one another, but would instead be spaced from one another. In that imaginary situation the used sideways ventilation flow could be sucked, via the imagined inter-space in-between the portions 91 and 92, from the interior storage space 10 into the interior shaft space 30. Such a suction would be due to pressure difference between the sideways ventilation flow and the in-line ventilation flow, and this would result into an undesirable mixing of the used sideways ventilation flow with the in-line ventilation flow, which should preferably remain as fresh as possible.

For similar reasons, in Fig. 3, the circumferential shaft wall 9 has no passageway therethrough, in order to further promote that fresh ventilation flow and used ventilation flow through a stack of containers remain separated from one another.

While the invention has been described and illustrated in detail in the foregoing description and in the drawing figures, such description and illustration are to be considered exemplary and/or illustrative and not restrictive; the invention is not limited to the disclosed embodiments.

For example, the shown lid of the shown container is fully detachable relative to the shown tray. Instead, the lid of a container according to the invention may for example also be fixedly connected to the tray, for example by means of a hinging mechanism, such as e.g. a living hinge.

Many various materials and production methods are possible for the various parts of a container according to the invention, including all materials and production methods which are known in the art for fresh produce containers. For example, many various plastics are possible for the tray and/or ventilation shaft and/or lid and/or elevated carrying platform, while these may be produced, e.g., by thermoforming and/or injection moulding. However, also many various natural materials, e.g. cardboard, as well as many various combinations of plastics and natural materials are possible for the various parts of a container according to the invention.

As another example, it is mentioned that the ventilation shaft of a container according to the invention may be manufactured as an integral part of the elevated carrying platform, but the ventilation shaft may also be manufactured separately from the elevated carrying platform. For example, elevated carrying platform may be manufactured by thermoforming, while the ventilation shaft is separately manufactured by injection moulding, whereafter the elevated carrying platform and the ventilation shaft may be (fixedly or detachably) connected to one another.

As a further example, it is mentioned that according to the invention many various ventilation fluids may be applied, such as for example (cooling) air, but also various other fluids, such as for example (fruit) ripening gasses, e.g. ethylene.

Other variations to the disclosed embodiments can be understood and effected by those skilled in the art in practicing the claimed invention, from a study of the drawings, the disclosure, and the appended claims.

In the claims, the word "comprising" does not exclude other elements or steps, and the indefinite article "a" or "an" does not exclude a plurality. For example, a single container according to the invention may comprise more than one ventilation shafts of the discussed type, the respective ventilation shafts being connected at mutually different locations, respectively, to the elevated carrying platform of the container.

Furthermore, a single other unit may fulfill the functions of several items recited in the claims. For the purpose of clarity and a concise description, features are disclosed herein as part of the same or separate embodiments, however, it will be appreciated that the scope of the invention may include embodiments having combinations of all or some of the features disclosed. Any reference signs in the claims should not be construed as limiting the scope.