Jan. 20 - Scientists in Australia have developed a way to ripen fruit while it is being transported to market. They say the technique could revolutionise the fresh fruit industry and bring down the cost of healthy produce for consumers. Ben Gruber has more.
Fresh fruit may be healthy, but it can also be expensive. One of the reasons is the time and money it takes to ripen the fruit before it goes on sale. In most cities and towns, when fruit arrives at the grocery store it's not yet ripe. Supermarkets use ripening rooms and compressed ethylene gas, a natural plant hormone, to trigger and speed up the ripening process. But Queensland University professor Bhesh Bhandari and his team say there's a better, less expensive way. They have developed a method to turn ethylene gas into a powder which can help ripen fruit while it's in transit. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BHESH BHANDARI, PROFESSOR, QUEENSLAND UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "What we did is simply putting the powder into the truck, a small amount of powder, only 40 grams of powder in one place and there is about 20 tones of mango in the thrice and it was enough. So the ripening process starts right during the transport of the mangoes." Researcher Binh Ho says that ethylene in powder form is safer, more stable and cheaper than it is as a gas. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BINH HO, RESEARCHER, QUEENSLAND UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "We hope this development will help farmers and development of post harvest technology not only in Australia but all over the world. Fruit grower Peter Tighe says that if his products arrives ready to eat at grocery stores, it will be cheaper for stores to process and ultimately less expensive for consumers as well. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PETER TIGHE, FRUIT GROWER, GH LEAVY & CO, SAYING: "A normal truck, trip to Perth for the stock we send over their normally tacked about 4 days. So it could be quite useful for them to have their product arrive in a ready to use condition. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BHESH BHANDARI, PROFESSOR, QUEENSLAND UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "It will save a lot (of money) because we got in some email from some people that they spend $1.40 to ripen 4 kilograms of fruit. You know, it costs sometimes that much." The team have filed a patent for their ethylene powder, they say its ripe for commercialization.