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What is Ethylene?

Ethylene is a naturally occurring odourless and colourless gas, which acts as a growth regulator in plants, and acts as an inhibitor of sprouting in long term storage of potatoes and onions, leaving no chemical residues on the surface of the produce after treatment. It is also used widely in ripening of bananas, citrus, and other fruits.

In nature ethylene is produced within the tissues of plant and plant products (i.e. fruits, vegetables, and floral products) and is released into the surrounding atmosphere. Fruits, vegetables, and flowers contain receptors, which serve as bonding sites to absorb free atmospheric ethylene molecules, and ethylene regulates the processes of plant growth and development.

Property Ethylene Vs Oxygen
Molecular Formula: C2H4 O2
Molecular Mass: 28.05 32
Color: Colourless Colourless
Smell: Odourless Odourless
Solubility in Water (@ O-deg C): 0.049 odorless
Density (g/l) at 0C: 1.429 colourless
Auto flammability 490C

Antecedents:

Biofresh Ethylene Management Systems use natural ethylene gas to suppress the sprouting process, the main cause of potato spoilage. Even better, they increase consumer confidence by leaving none of the harmful residues of chemical treatments such as CIPC.

Our systems provide you with a reliable, easy to use and cost effective way to extend the life of fresh produce throughout the supply chain. Many growers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers are now reducing wastage, increasing their profits and improving their ethical credentials thanks to biofresh.

Why not see what we can do for you?

ethylenesystem

 Research into the suppression of sprouting by ethylene in stored potatoes and onions has been carried out for over 50 years. It was shown in the early 20th century that storing apples with potatoes would inhibit sprouting. This was a direct result of the ethylene produced by the apples having an effect on the potatoes.

It wasn’t until the early 1990’s that any substantive work was conducted to establish whether ethylene would be suitable as a commercial sprout suppressant. The early work was carried out in Canada at the Atlantic Food & Horticultural Research centre. In the UK, where there has been increasing pressure to reduce detectable residues in food, ethylene has been used commercially since 2003 as an alternative to more traditional chemical based sprout suppressants, which leave significant levels of residues.

The Biofresh Ethylene Management Unit supplies pure ethylene from cylinders which are placed outside the storage facility. A highly accurate ethylene sensor measures concentrations inside the store and sends a feedback signal to the control panel, which releases ethylene into the store at the necessary rate to main correct levels. This enables the safe and effective management of very low levels of ethylene and allows the concentration to gradually increase in line with the recommended protocol.

Ethylene is fed into the store adjacent to the facility’s cooling fans in order to ensure full and even distribution throughout the room.

Worker Safety

Ethylene is a widely occurring gas which is emitted from vegetation of all types. Biofresh Ethylene Management Units operate at levels of less than 10ppm, which is lower than levels often encountered naturally, and which are well within health and safety limits.

HSE guidelines in the UK do not require operators to wear respiratory protective equipment below levels of 1000ppm. Standard protocols for treatment of potatoes and onions with Biofresh Ethylene Management Units require only a fraction of this level – typically 100 times lower.

In other areas of the food sector, ethylene is widely used in fruit ripening rooms for citrus and bananas. Outside the food sector ethylene also has a long history of use as a clinical anaesthetic. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has established no exposure limits for Ethylene and it has been designated as “Generally recognised as safe” (GRAS) in the U.S.

Comparison of Ethylene Cylinders to Ethanol Catalytic Generators:

There are currently two methods of administering ethylene, pure ethylene from cylinders and ethylene catalytically generated from ethanol. Biofresh have investigated both methods, but strongly recommend pure ethylene from cylinders.

Biofresh Ethylene Management Units operate using 99.95% pure ethylene supplied in cylinders which are positioned outside the store, fully satisfying CRD quality requirements and HSE safety requirements. Use of cylinders ensures the delivery of pure ethylene, avoiding potential impurities which may occur with use of ethanol. The use of 99.95% pure ethylene from cylinders under the brand ‘Biofresh Safestore’ has been approved by the UK Chemical Regulations Directorate (MAPP Registration Number 15729 dated 2012). The registration was issued for the maximum period of 10 years, after which it will be eligible for further renewal. Details are published on the website of the HSE. The approval for Biofresh Safestore is eligible for approval in other EU member states by the regulatory process known as mutual recognition.

In addition, HSE has cautioned against the use of ethanol catalytic generators, noting that “formation of flammable gas/air mixtures may result from spillage of ethanol-based solutions”.

  • Safe application method as recognised by UK HSE.
  • 99.95% pure ethylene from cylinders avoids any possible gas impurities. Cylindered gas meets with all required purity standards.
  • Locating the system outside of the store means storage space is not reduced.
  • Multiple stores can be supplied from one cylinder location.
  • Low running cost and no need for tonnage fee or rental charge. Although ethylene used in each store can vary depending on ventilation and the age of the store, a 1000t store will typically use one 15kg bottle every 6 weeks.
   

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