Cannery in a Box





Almost since the days of Napoleon, people have wanted to be able to create a microcannery – a cannery for a modest food preservation business – or for community canning and to enable new canners to properly learn the craft.  To meet this need almost anywhere in the world, regardless of the canning support services available, Embarcadero personnel set out to design the most economical and energy efficient setup that would meet the regulatory requirements of the world’s food safety authorities. And they did! Here is the result - Embarcadero’s patented “Cannery in a Box”™ (CIAB) microcannery, currently in use from the mountains of California to the seacoast of Papua New Guinea.

Your first question is probably: “Just what is the CIAB and what can it do?”

The CIAB is a modular approach to canning which uses a “master module” that supports up to three additional “dependent modules.” Each module will produce a minimum of a thousand commercially marketable cans in a single eight-hour work period with only two operators sealing and processing in the master and one in each dependent module. It is designed to be operated at either a fixed site or to be mounted on a transportable unit for use at more remote food harvest sites, thus preserving foods at peak of their quality.

If the processing energy is provided by butane or propane, the patented process controller will allow 5 US gallons of propane, or 5 ¾ gallons of butane to produce 4000 processed cans of food. (The CIAB can be configured to operate on liquid natural gas [LNG] but will not be portable and requires a different stove configuration, at a small extra cost.) Yet the CIAB can be operated without either gas fuel or electricity. Unit production will be less and production labor more intensive, but food quality will not be sacrificed!

Although the availability of electrical power and propane/butane certainly make cannery operations easier and more efficient with the Cannery in a Box™, the only absolute pre- requisite is adequate potable water to process the food materials and dispose of waste.

The CIAB is shipped in one of two fashions. The first is the “little box” - consisting of all the CIAB equipment crated, ready to be unpacked and set up in a facility provided by the CIAB purchaser. The second is the “big box” – an intermodal shipping container rebuilt to be an operating facility and containing all the CIAB equipment plus preparation and routing tables, air conditioning, power and water supply and processing effluent disposal fittings as specified by the buyer. Embarcadero can easily design and provide ancillary intermodal facilities for ice making, freeze/chill storage and warehousing if desired.

The current (2002) cost of the CIAB modules is US$33,900 for the master module and US$29,960 for the dependent module crated in “little boxes.” Shipping to the purchaser is separately quoted. By processing high value food products, the entire CIAB can be expensed over months rather than years! No alternative will perform this well. Although designed as a commercial microcannery, the CIAB is eminently well suited for use as either a community-oriented cannery or as a university or NGO instructional cannery. It was specifically designed and tested to perform as an operating unit under the most severe, adverse circumstances that still permit canning, in the field, where few cannery support services are usually available. It has accommodated these mixed uses very well.

To answer the next question as to what is in the Cannery in a Box™, we need to itemize the basic critical elements of the “little box” CIAB:

What’s in the CIAB’s “little box?”

Canning involves two criteria. First the foods to be preserved must be contained in a hermetically sealed container to prevent post-processing contamination. Second, the canned foods must be thermally processed for a sufficient time to kill microbiological pathogens. This is known as Thermal Death Time (TDT) processing. The CIAB master module accomplishes these two evolutions easily, completely and efficiently.

The seamer machinery for can sealing is provided in one of two ways, selected by the buyer. A semi-automatic electric sealer and a manual “backup” seamer are provided in the 307 and 401 diameter can sizes. Additional sizes are available at the buyer’s option. For non-standard sizing and ends, custom chucks and rollers can be fabricated. The second option, for buyers lacking electricity, is six manual seamers (the same model as the “backup” seamer.) Extra large cans are manageable with slightly larger can sealers. Conveniently, all the CIAB sealers are table top mountable. And all Embarcadero sealers are USDA-certified for meats and poultry. (The US FDA doesn’t certify any canning equipment.) To verify that all seals are actually hermetic, the CIAB master module includes a professional can “tear down” kit with instructions for use. The buyer’s local seamer technician performs the standard, seal quality assurance, tear down micrometer measurements, using the kit and directions provided.

After the food is loaded in cans and hermetically sealed, it must undergo TDT processing.

This requires both a pressure vessel to gain sufficient temperature for processing and a stable heat source to maintain TDT temperature. Each “cook” must be correctly timed. The proper TDT process must be totally verifiable to guarantee that truly safe foods are being produced. (Included are 500 each, 307x200.25 NESS cans/ends for system testing.)

The CIAB uses a linked retort and controlled burner to accomplish this. The retort is a vertical still retort with a 41 ½ US qt. capacity that is configured and plumbed to do away with the need for a separate boiler, its plumbing and power supply. Retort temperatures are verified with a wind up chart recorder and certified MIG thermometers. The MIG thermometers are shipped with a two-point certification performed by the U.S. National Food Lab located in Dublin, California (30 miles from Embarcadero’s warehouse.) A laboratory timer is used to govern retorting times. A 5 USG propane tank and regulator are furnished with the burner gas feed governed by the patented burner controller and retort pressure closed-loop feedback. Larger propane/butane tanks may be used, fitted with the regulator. The burner controller will operate with any properly regulated propane/butane supply tank. Again, the CIAB can be optionally configured for LNG.

Assembly and testing instructions are furnished. To assist with commercial operations, from setup to marketing, a CIAB Commercial Startup Manual is included. The Codex Alimentarius Commission of the World Health Organization recommends that most food manufacturing be conducted in accordance with the HACCP protocols. To aid the newer canning operators with this, Embarcadero also includes the HACCP NOW computer modules that operate on IBM-PC protocol computers. Embarcadero is the western hemisphere representative for the internationally offered HACCP NOW programs, that we geared to a NAFTA interpretation. This HACCP system is completely customizable for the actual regulatory requirements of any location (with a default of the Codex recommendations, as they are interpreted within the UK), and all the text can be easily translated into any local language or dialect, as the user can access the master computer program disk to make text changes. HACCP NOW training is keyed to graphics rather than words alone. Training graphics can be matched to workplace signage. This is critical to creating a safe food processing work environment, since many and varied languages and cultures are usually present in the processor’s food manufacturing work force. This employee cultural diversity is common in food manufacturing/distribution worldwide.

The CIAB is packed and shipped in an ATA wood “little box” shipping crate that is dimensioned approximately 4 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet – 128 cubic feet. Weight is slightly over 1000 pounds, depending on the specific equipment and configuration chosen. 

The basic master module can also be equipped for vacuum canning, overpressure canning (usually pouching), sterilization and for use as an emergency group feeding station. The fittings for vacuum operation are included, although pump and gauging are separately ordered. No parts for overpressure (pouching) are included, but the CIAB can be ordered so equipped at extra cost.

We trust you will find the Cannery in a Box™ is the answer to your basic canning needs.

The Staff of Embarcadero Cannery
2026 Livingston Street
Oakland, CA 94606-5229 USA

Voice (510) 535-2311
Fax     (510) 535-2235
Email  contact_ehcan@hotmail.com

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