In the Mexican federal state of Michoacán, the heart of the country’s “Avocado Belt,” lies Lagunillas. Previously of little economic importance to the number one avocado-growing region in the world, this town of a few thousand inhabitants has quietly become the scene of a small industrial revolution. Mexico accounts for roughly one-third of global avocado production. Most of this takes place in Michoacán, where its higher altitudes provide the perfect growing conditions for the most popular avocado variety: “Hass.” To assuage the world’s expanding appetite for this delicacy, today almost all of Michoacán’s avocados are exported.
As it ripens off the tree, the fruit must be delivered and served at just the right time to avoid taking up too much storage space or ending up as food waste. A common way to achieve this has been to accelerate the ripening process just before sale. But this requires chemical treatment at the point of destination.
Isn’t there an easier way to export avocados? This is what Corporativo La Viña, a company with decades of experience in avocado production, asked themselves. Their idea sounds simple: quick-freeze and ship ripe avocado halves to be defrosted as desired. But in fact, the kind of facility required for this had never been built, which left Alia Yhamel and Miguel Gutiérrez, the young engineers put in charge of designing it, a mountain to climb. La Viña chose to build the plant in Lagunillas, a small town with easy access to Michoacán’s avocado orchards. Despite its strategic location, industry and the government had paid the town little attention so far, leaving it with a lack of infrastructure and economic activity outside of agriculture. This made the new plant not just an important step in the development of La Viña’s business but in the entire region.
“THIS PROJECT PUT LAGUNILLAS ON THE MAP.”
PROCESS ENGINEER, CORPORATIVO LA VIÑA
To design the world’s first avocado quick-freezing plant, the engineers teamed up with refrigeration specialist RR Refrigeración Industrial Aplicada. They centered their plans on an Individual Quick Freezing (IQF) tunnel where the cleaned, ripened, and cut avocados are chilled to -40°F before being vacuum-packed and sent on to the warehouse. The plant can process 150 long tons of fruit per week, which is stored in 12 chambers with 48 long tons capacity each.
To cover the plant’s air conditioning and refrigeration requirements, the team opted for a custom cooling system with an ECOSS 2.0 Condenser from Güntner to feed the natural refrigerant ammonia to the air coolers. For the 25 Dual VARIO Air Coolers, Güntner provided specially customized heat exchangers for avocado ripening. Their flexible, dual-discharge design helps distribute the air evenly throughout the ripening and cutting rooms, ensuring the fruit’s consistently high quality. Similarly, in storage, 10 Cubic VARIO Air Coolers equipped with tailor-made fans keep the temperature at a uniform -8°F while meeting the highest hygiene standards.
The cooling system is made more sustainable by treating all the water processed by it and the entire plant in accordance with Mexican Official Standards (NOM). This allows the water to be reused for irrigation, which is especially valuable in the water-intensive avocado industry. Right from the start, the project’s positive impact was evident: by counting on the people of Lagunillas to build the necessary roads, it offered them a reliable source of income. What’s more, ever since its opening, the plant has employed 700 people directly as well as an estimated 1,000 more at its suppliers.
These numbers are only going to increase, as the plant is now firmly established as an international supplier of frozen avocado halves—particularly to hotels and restaurants in France, Portugal, and Spain, who value their consistent, perfect ripeness. Given this success, La Viña is already planning extensions for quick-freezing more of Mexico’s delicious fruits, including berries, mangos, and pineapples. That’s good news for food lovers. And good news for the people of Lagunillas.
“IT’S AMAZING TO BE ABLE TO COMPLETE SUCH A HIGH-TECH PROJECT SUCCESSFULLY AT THIS QUALITY.”
INDUSTRIAL REFRIGERATION MANAGER, GÜNTNER