By the Blouin News Business staff

Avocado industry ripe for a steam revolution

by in Asia-Pacific.

(Source: amanda/flickr)

(Source: amanda/flickr)

Australian firm Naturo All Natural Technologies has perfected an invention that will revolutionize the avocado industry, Reuters reported on Tuesday. Global production of this “superfood” is already at 5 million tons per year. But avocados are not grown worldwide, only ripen after being picked, and spoil quickly, so they tend to be expensive if shipped afar. But the firm’s invention — nicknamed the “Avocado Time Machine,” or ATM — uses alternating steam pressure to halt the fruit’s ripening enzyme without additives, thus keeping its natural taste and healthiness.

Jeff Hastings, the inventor of the device, said that with avocados recognized as a delicious superfood and demand growing, the result of a consumer purchasing one was often disappointment after it quickly becomes overripe. As for processed avocado products, food safety is a major worry. Prior to the firm’s breakthrough, safe processed avocado products could only be made using very expensive high pressure technology, which is only applicable to pulp. Meanwhile, almost all cut avocados are prepared by being dipped in chemicals — acids, antioxidants, or preservatives. This can alter their taste and texture, and raises concerns about food safety and hygiene.

However, the ATM — which can process 1,100 pounds of cut avocados per hour with zero additives — solves all of these problems. After going through the machine, slices or pulp will last a minimum of 10 days in the refrigerator without browning or at least one year in the freezer, according to Naturo. The ATM also eliminates potential pathogens beyond the limits set by the strictest international safety codes.

If widely adopted, the avocado time machine could be a win-win for all parties along the supply chain. Farmers could use all harvested fruit, stores and restaurants could sell fresh avocados for longer, and consumers would have more time without worrying over spoiling. A more resilient supply could ultimately bring prices down, or at least moderate their climb if global demand keeps rising.

An unspecified Australian company is said to be the first to use the technology and is expected to start making avocado products processed by the ATM later this year.

Encouragingly, Naturo’s motive is more than just profit. When asked why it is developing this kind of technology, the firm’s directors answered:

The supply of healthy, safe and nutritionally-rich food is one of the major challenges for our world’s future. The reduction of spoilage and waste forms part of the solution to use the planet’s resources more wisely. The natural extension of shelf life for all kinds of food and food products plays a significant role in achieving this goal.

Their invention is another commendable indication that improving global nutrition does not necessarily require genetically modifying food. With greater longevity, avocado exports could rise to previously-challenging markets — even those with stringent food safety requirements like the E.U., where opposition to G.M. crops runs high. And “avocado disappointment” would become a thing of the past.