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Packing technology advances expected to help growers
New packaging technology revealed Friday could give Okanagan fruit growers a competitive edge by lengthening shipping times and allowing fruit to arrive at market in a fresher condition.
“Our producers need cutting-edge technologies that will help them remain competitive in the global marketplace,” said Okanagan Coquihalla MP Dan Albas, in making the announcement that Agriculture Canada is investing $261,000 to help Innovative Food Systems and the scientists at the Pacific Agriculture Research Centre complete development of the product.
“We are delivering on consumers’ demands for freshness and environmental responsibility. And we are opening up new markets, so that future generations of farmers are well set to compete in global markets.”
The new shipping containers, explained Dr. Perry Lidster, president and CEO of Innovative Food Systems, allows suppliers to cool a closed and lidded box of fruit as quickly as they could without a lid on it.
The addition of the anti-microbial agent that activates at high temperatures or high humidity helps prevent the development of fungi, mould and bacteria, ensuring the safety and quality of the fruit.
“We are able to withstand temperature abuses like the product being left on the tarmac at an airport or on an unrefrigerated dock at a retail store and we are able to ensure that product will not decay, that there are no food-borne pathogens that are developing on it,” said Lidster.
It will also allow shippers to provide a premium ripe product that is harvested at a more mature stage, rather than the dark green that tomatoes or peaches are usually harvested at before shipment.
“It’s actually gone through some of its initial ripening process,” he said. “So you are going to get something that we can sustain for a period of 25 to 35 days through the distribution system and have it ripe within a day at distribution centres.”
Cost savings for producers come from more economical shipping methods—ocean or rail, rather than air—and fresher fruit at the destination means more sales, with fewer damage claims.