Extending fresh produce shelf life
Broccoli only lasts 2–3 days at ambient temperatures but at 0°C the shelf life pushes out to 3–4 weeks. This explains why the vegetable is shipped in polystyrene boxes filled with ice.
While this method of transportation keeps the broccoli fresher for longer it isn’t very environmentally friendly and it is hard to maintain the low temperatures throughout the supply chain and ensure the produce’s quality is maintained.
Dr Matt Wilson, a research fellow at the ARC Training Centre for Innovative Horticultural Products based at the University of Tasmania, is working with PhD candidate Nha Huynh in a Woolworths sponsored project to reduce plastic packaging and keep fruit and vegetables fresh and visually appealing after travelling long distances.
Two separate approaches are being investigated. In one the use of recyclable or non-petroleum-based plastic materials which are more environmentally friendly are being looked at. In the other, the researchers are looking at modified gas packaging for high-value produce like berries, cherries and broccoli. Finding optimal gas ratios and the use of ethylene scavengers in the packaging are under investigation.
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