Extending the shelf life of fresh produce

Tuesday, 05 August, 2014

Fruit and vegetable spoilage is a major industry problem but new technology may be providing a solution.

Designed initially for the United States Army, Primaira’s Bluezone Fresh Preservation is a patented technology that strips microbes, ethylene, hydrocarbons, odours and other contaminants from the atmosphere. It is claimed that, when placed in coolrooms at pack sheds, wholesaler agent’s premises or even in retail stores or restaurants, Bluezone technology has the ability to reduce fresh produce spoilage by half.

It is possible that Bluezone technology may make it possible to transport produce like strawberries by sea rather than air.

The technology can be used to extend shelf life, slow ripening, reduce mould and russet spotting, eliminate odours and minimise excessive softening or toughness. Its positive effect on produce quality and storage life has been demonstrated for use in transport containers, cold-storage rooms, walk-in refrigerators, reach-in refrigerators and general food storage areas. It is a self-contained, rugged, low-cost, low-power, air cleaning technology.

The Bluezone technology has already demonstrated its value in stationary cold storage. Kiwifruit across Australia now benefit from Bluezone’s ethylene-scrubbing and microbial-reduction ability. “The science is now ‘in’ on the effectiveness of this technology to extend the shelf life and reduce shrinkage in the supply chain for kiwi,” says Keith Maggs, director of Environmental Technologies Australia, the local distributor for Primaira.

Bluezone effectiveness in reducing microbial load.                                 Effect of Bluezone on ethylene levels.

The antimicrobial effectiveness of Bluezone has been established in pack-house and cold-storage trials. “We have witnessed significant reduction in airborne mould and mould growth in tomato pack houses. In pineapple trials, Bluezone technology reduced bacteria, yeast and mould counts on surfaces in just 13 days,” said Maggs.

Going mobile with the technology

Primaira has recently licensed its Bluezone fresh preservation technology to Maersk Container Industry (MCI). The two companies are partnering to integrate the Bluezone air-cleaning system into Star Cool Integrated refrigerated containers.

“We see the Bluezone technology in the Star Cool reefer as a ‘game changer’ for refrigerated transport,” says Soren Leth Johannsen, chief commercial officer of MCI. “Just consider the economic and environmental upsides of converting today’s airfreight of fresh-cut flowers into reefer containers.”

“We are still working on the final design, but we are convinced that the Bluezone and Star Cool combination represents economic and environmental upsides so far unseen in container transportation. Bluezone will complement MCI’s CA and AV+ systems, increasing the geographical reach of containerised transport and preserving the quality of fruit and produce.”

Primaira has extensive experience developing technologies that enhance food quality culminating in its Bluezone technology for ethylene and mould removal which has the potential to extend the shelf life of fresh produce.

Reefer container owners are enthusiastic as the systems that are currently available, for example using ozone, are often only temporary and installed per shipment. Also, from a container-owner’s perspective it is also a major concern that ozone by nature is aggressive when exposed on rubber, aluminium and copper.

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