Bacteria-killing sachets a world-first agtech tackling food loss in transit and reducing landfill – Michmutters

Bacteria-killing sachets a world-first agtech tackling food loss in transit and reducing landfill

A South Australian agtech company is using innovative new technology in an attempt to stop the rot and make food loss a worry of the past.

In 2005, rural New South Wales restaurant operator Merrill Erickson asked her husband, retired scientist Dr Gary Erickson, to come up with a solution to make her fresh produce last longer.

He developed a prototype which would go on to become ChillSafe, a hand-sized sachet that releases a low dose hydrogen peroxide vapor into shipping containers, reducing bacteria and extending the shelf-life of produce.

Food retailer and marketing consultant Tom DeMasi stumbled across the product at an international food expo and could see the value of Dr Erickson’s invention across the supply chain.

In 2010 they co-founded Coolsan Australia, and now they are tackling food waste one truck at a time.

More food into more mouths

Two bright orange mandarins.
Mr DeMasi says the technology has already saved truckloads of produce from going into landfill.(ABC Riverland: Sophie Landau)

It is a strenuous and labor intensive process to get produce from the farm to the plate with hours spent picking, washing, spraying, waxing, imaging, sorting, packing, storing, and then finally shipping.

Mr DeMasi, who is based in the Riverland town of Morgan, said bacteria can decimate a whole shipload of produce in a very small period of time if it makes its way into the container.

“Everything gets wasted — from the fertilizers to grow it, the time it took for the farmer, the petrol, the tractor. Anything it costs to create it is gone,” he said.

“What we’re trying to do is get as much product into more markets, more mouths, and less into landfill.”

Major horticultural company Costa Group first trialled the technology to solve an issue with overripe lemons coming out of storage.

After seeing the results, the group began using the sachets in its shipping containers to prevent food from spoiling during export.

Three men in high vis smiling inside a warehouse
Tom DeMasi’s (centre) product reduces food loss and is now sharing the bacteria-stopping technology with the agricultural world.(ABC Riverland: Sophie Landau)

Riverland packing operations manager Mick Trussell said the transit process is increasingly unpredictable due to the impacts of the pandemic, so protecting food from bacteria is more important than ever.

“With delays in shipping and transit times, and containers getting held out in the middle of the ocean before they can get into ports, it certainly helps,” he said.

Top of the food chain

Coolsan Australia took out one of nine AgTech Growth grants from the Department of Primary Industries and Regions SA in June, and will use the $100,000 in funding to develop a smaller version of the technology.

In its current form ChillSafe can be used in a shipping container for produce in partially open boxes, like citrus.

a packing and shipping shed
Mr DeMasi says orders for the new in-box technology are on a timeline of 6-12 months from now.(ABC Riverland: Sophie Landau)

Mr DeMasi said the newer technology will go inside boxes of produce that are enclosed such as blueberries, rockmelon, and table grapes.

“We have interest from EE Muir & Sons and other organizations like Costa to partner with us on a bigger scale moving forward,” he said.

“So maybe we’ll be making it here in Renmark, who knows.”


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