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BiOWiSH® Getting Bananas To Market Fresher

Getting Bananas To Market Fresher

Our global food supply is precious.  We are developing products that help increase the viable shelf life of perishable foods such as bananas, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Increasing the shelf life of bananas

India produces almost one third of the world’s banana supply. Most of India’s banana production is for domestic consumption. Yet though it is one of the largest banana producers in the world, only a tiny fraction of India’s bananas make it into the global export market. The country is working to increase harvests to enter the global export market, but there is a need to adopt improved post harvest processes to ensure the increased volumes of bananas reach the market ready to consume.

According to the United Nations Environment Program, roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year (approximately 1.3 billion tons) is lost or wasted.

Too much waste

In Sri Lanka, 800,000 metric tons of fruits and vegetables are produced annually. About 40% of the product is lost during harvesting and post harvest operations due to spoilage and disease. The NRCB (The National Research Centre for Banana in Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu) estimates India’s banana and plantain production at 28.4 million tons per year with 20-24% of harvest lost due to substandard handling including improper transportation, packaging and storage.

A U.S. biotechnology company, BiOWiSH Technologies, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, has developed a new technology that helps increase the viable shelf life of perishable foods such as bananas, fresh fruits and vegetables.

This creates options for longer supply chains to market while preserving final produce quality and to reduce the overall spoilage losses. BiOWiSH® products work by increasing the efficiency of natural biological processes which provides a range of applications for the technology in food production, environmental management, and human and pet health.

Resolving latex on bananas

Here’s the significant point. The new wash has been tested to be effective at resolving latex issues in banana production, increasing storage life and maintaining the freshness of bananas. What is latex in regards to banana production? Latex (sometimes called sap) is the mixture that oozes from the severed crown of the bananas post harvest.

Latex is often the cause of the dark stains on the banana peel, making the bananas appear unsavory. In post harvest, bananas are typically moved through a wash pool to remove the latex with water and chemicals. The wash
pool has to be drained and refilled with water and chemicals regularly. The Fruit and Vegetable Wash cleans the latex off of the bananas more effectively, and, reduces the amount of daily water draining and refilling in the wash pools.

According to Rod Vautier, a founder of the company and currently Vice President of Sales and Marketing, “As we developed our product’s technology to improve the banana washing process to improve fruit aesthetics and save water, the significant extension of shelf life for the fruit was unexpectedly the greatest benefit to the perishable food industry.” The improved shelf life was first observed in major banana growing countries in Latin America including Ecuador, Honduras and Guatemala and was verified by tracking multiple shipments of fruit through the full supply chain into UK ports and retail stores.

During a recent trial, a banana producer in Chamarajanagar near Mysore, India, found that the Fruit & Vegetable Wash from BiOWiSH® compared to a traditional post harvest bath with aluminum sulfate treated water, extended its harvest’s shelf life. After six days stored at room temperature, the traditionally treated bananas showed more signs of crown rot and ripening than the bananas washed in water treated with BiOWiSH®. The additional time to ripening provided by the newly developed wash will help India overcome some of its logistical challenges and increase its amount of exportable quality fruit.

Using natural products instead of chemicals

“BiOWiSH®’s natural solutions for post harvest washing of fruit and vegetables supports a growing trend away from chemical use in the processing of food and will be followed by further pre and post harvest products based on the technology. For industry this is providing important alternatives to chemical treatments in an environment with increasing pressure from consumers and major retailers to reduce chemical inputs,” Vautier said.

Walmart, the United States largest distributor of groceries and fresh produce has been a leader in the trend for retailer pressure up the supply chain to reduce chemical fertilizers and pesticides since announcing their Sustainable Ag Commitment in 2010. Vautier noted, “when Walmart demands change it shifts the industry practice as they are such a significant portion of total volume.” In addition to prolonging the shelf life of product, The new technology has also been proven to reduce the amount of water and harsh chemicals required during the cleaning process after harvest. This saves on production costs and reduces the environmental impact of large scale farming.

Is this new biotechnology from BiOWiSH Technologies a promising and all natural development that will improve fresh food production throughout the world? While the NRCB and banana producers in India will still have to identify new methods for overcoming diseases and other challenges, at least one barrier for increasing India’s banana production to a global scale may have a solution.

This story was published on Forbes.

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