Artisan cheese maker gets a boost from wireless monitoring system
Continual monitoring of temperature and humidity helps control quality, increase production.
Located in Indianapolis, IN, Tulip Tree Creamery specializes in producing hand-crafted cheeses made from traditional European recipes. To ensure product quality, owner Fons Smits wanted a wireless monitoring system that could continually log temperature and humidity in the cheese aging rooms. The system would also need the capability to send warning emails whenever conditions changed and went out of range.
“I wanted to see much more detailed data from my aging rooms. If conditions such as low humidity, especially with mold-ripened cheeses, are out of range, the mold on the cheese won’t grow, and the cheese dries out,” explains Smits.
Each of the four aging rooms stores its own style of cheese, which requires different conditions to mature in post-production. Since the more aromatic cheeses must stay moist on the outside, they require an environment with high humidity. In contrast, natural rind cheeses need to be stored in lower humidity, because if the air gets too dry, the cheese also will be too dry.
Tulip Tree chose the CAS DataLoggers T&D wireless temperature data logger, along with a T&D wireless data logger USB base station, to collect and wirelessly transmit the logger’s real-time readings. Designed for environmental monitoring in warehouses and supermarkets and for use in refrigerated trucks, T&D combination temperature and humidity loggers communicate via wireless communication to the T&D RTR-500AW LAN network base station, which automatically downloads the recorded data.
The temperature and humidity recorders log ambient temperatures from -30°C to 80°C (-22°F to 176°F) and relative humidity levels from 0 to 99 percent. Temperature recordings are made with 0.3°C accuracy; the humidity readings have a 2.5 percent RH accuracy. Current readings are visible on the LCD displays.
The T&D RTR-500AW network base station with built-in wireless LAN communication is set up to automatically download recorded data from the wireless data loggers and then send that data via the facility’s LAN network to an email address, FTP folder or the T&D cloud web-storage service. The systems now monitor each of Tulip Tree’s rooms for temperature and humidity. The loggers’ external temperature probes go through the wall of each aging room and are attached to wall mounts, making recent data easily accessible from the corridor. The loggers are set to take a reading every 10 minutes.
“The better I can control the temperature and humidity in my aging rooms, the more positively I can impact the quality and consistency of my cheese product. This, in turn, has had an immediate effect on my business’s profitability,” Smits says.
Moreover, the data is useful for HACCP and state health inspectors. Smits can show them the environmental data for a period of time to prove the readings are within safe levels.
In an emergency, the base station automatically sends alarms directly to Smits’ mobile device. “If the temperature gets too high, bacteria can quickly develop,” he says. “If the room’s cooling system fails, the base station immediately sends me an email so I have time to wheel our shelves out of the affected aging room and into an unaffected one.”
The monitoring system’s software interface allows Smits to check each logger’s readings individually or as a group.