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Steam Generators Put Deep Freeze On Energy Costs

A frozen food processor replaces its aging boilers with high efficiency steam generators and sees a boost in process efficiency.

When Charles F. Seabrook purchased the South Jersey farm form his father in 1912, he wanted Seabrook Farms to be a pioneer in the growing, storing and selling of fresh healthy vegetables.

He made his farm one of the first ever to use overhead irrigation and gasoline-powered tractors and then expanded the farm to include a canning and freezing facility. And yet, the bottom line was always the same: provide consumers with the best quality, freshest tasting vegetables.

He made his farm one of the first ever to use overhead irrigation and gasoline-powered tractors and then expanded the farm to include a canning and freezing facility. And yet, the bottom line was always the same: provide consumers with the best quality, freshest tasting vegetables.

For over 100 years, that pioneering spirit has positioned the farm and Seabrook Brothers and Sons as a leader in frozen vegetable business.

Today, the fourth generation of the Seabrook Family grows, processes and freezes 150 million pounds of vegetables from the Garden State each year, still operating with the same vision.

“We’re fourth generation – it’s exciting,” said Wes Seabrook, Vice President of Engineering at Seabrook Brothers and Sons. “What keeps us in business is, there’s always a way to get better at what you’re doing. Being able to change is the best thing you can do for your company.”

“You look at how the oldest companies survive, and really it is all about change. Back in the old days, we had about 7,000 employees. We’re now providing even more of the same products and services than ever before with 450 employees,” Seabrook said.

“Change began as soon as we replaced the old mule-drawn farm equipment with the first Caterpillar tractors. Just think of how technology made working in the fields so much more simple, efficient and productive.”

Staying Ahead of the Curve, and the Competition

To most shoppers the name Seabrook Farms is synonymous with crisp frozen green beans and a frozen creamed spinach that tastes better than homemade. These products can be found in supermarkets primarily up and down the East Coast.

A large part of the business at Seabrook is actually the processing and freezing of vegetables for other manufacturers.  In 1978, when the new generation took the reins of the business, they decided it was time to once reinvigorate that pioneering spirit that kept the Seabrook name alive. They knew that to meet higher demand and increased volume, the company would have to look to get ahead of the industry curve and find ways to process and freeze higher quantities faster and more efficient.

“The good thing for us is people are still eating. South Jersey still has a lot of farmland here and we are so close to the big metropolitan areas of Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, Washington DC and even Boston,” he said. “We are in a perfect location to respond to the needs of those cities.”

They took a hard look at operating costs and efficiencies and determined that a major expense was their boiler.

“Our business relies a great deal on that boiler for flash steaming, cooking and freezing. And with the old one we were losing a lot of time and money,” Seabrook said. Here’s why:

First, a tube boiler takes a very long time to start up. Walking in on Monday morning and firing up the boiler meant hours and hours of non-productivity.

Another option would be to just keep the boiler running through the weekend without actually using it. The problem with that is, New Jersey law requires a certified boiler operator to be with the boiler at all times that it is running.

Both options seemed to be a waste of time and money. That is when they learned of Clayton Industries. 

Steam Generation Saves Time, Money

Seabrook opted for two Clayton Industries high-efficiency SigmaFire Steam Generators to replace its two old boilers. The choice was simple: “These steam generators could do what no boiler could — bring steam up to the right temperature so quickly that the quality of the fresh vegetables never became compromised,” he said.

According to Timothy Kevill, Clayton Sales Engineer, the Clayton steam generator guarantees fuel-to-steam efficiency, is compact in size and super-speedy. This means that:

  • Fuel costs are lower
  • Startups are immediate
  • The needed vegetable steam temperature of 200 degrees can be achieved in two minutes

To Seabrook, the main advantage is efficiency. It takes a few minutes to get this steam generator up and running.  So, start-up is a breeze. For Seabrook, there’s no longer the down-time while the boiler starts or the added expense of a weekend and after-hours boiler attendant.

“If you think about it, just by removing the need to have an attendant here on weekends — 48 hours, for 52 weeks a year for over 30 years. We’ve estimated that alone is a savings of about $1.5 million,” Seabrook said.

In addition, the Clayton steam generator can handle load shifts almost instantaneously. So, the folks at Seabrook can process a small quantity of corn and immediately follow up with a large quantity of beans, quickly and easily.

Clayton’s service team is trained and certified professionals who work only for the company. Their sole job is serving the customers who purchase and use the Clayton steam generators.

What’s more, Clayton Industries steam generators are explosion-proof, providing the highest levels of safety in the boiler industry.

So Nice, They Did it Twice

More recently, it was once again time for the Seabrook Family to take a long look at their business and decide what could be done to move ahead of the curve. The success of their freezing and packing business was continuing to move forward.

The natural step was to once again upgrade the boilers. So, Wes Seabrook consulted his Clayton representatives.

“They were great to work with. They reviewed our existing equipment and designed a plan to meet our future needs economically and efficiently,” he said. “We simply upgraded our existing steam generator controls”

The upgrade consisted of a retrofit of existing equipment, which was still in excellent condition, thanks to Clayton’s outstanding maintenance plan.

“It’s great. We’ve got all of the bells and whistles of the new ones, but we’re still using our 1978 boilers,” Seabrook said.

Looking to the Future

It’s been over a decade since Seabrook Brothers and Sons upgraded their Clayton Steam Generators and over 33 years since they made the switch from their old fire tube boilers. Like those old mule-drawn tractors, it’s once change that the Seabrook family will never regret.

Wes Seabrook says the switch from a traditional boiler to the Clayton Steam Generator was just what the company needed to stay ahead of the times, and he doesn’t see that changing for a long time to come. “Our business continues to thrive as we keep packing, not only our own high quality vegetables, but for others, too. These manufacturers know we only opt for top quality whether or not our name is stamped on the product. They know we are the best, and that has a lot to do with the equipment that we use.”

Like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, Wes Seabrook sees a great future for his family business.

“My brother’s sons have already been working with us…not because they have to, but because they want to. There’s always been a passion in our family, and having that passion is what will keep Seabrook alive for generations,” he said.