By Katarzyna Dymek, R&D Manager Optifreeze
Optifreeze has a unique, breakthrough technology and machinery that is going to revolutionize the world of horticulture industry. The technology is applied to the unrooted cuttings leading to extended lifetime, significantly reduced waste and improved quality of growing plants after long term storage. The work is in progress to expand the product portfolio to cut flowers and young plants also.
The OptiCept machinery is now on its way to the plant farm in Kenya where the first step towards full commercialization is going to start as soon as the machinery arrives. Together with our partner – Syngenta, we strongly believe that the benefits of our technology shortly will be available for the entire horticulture industry.
One technology – endless possibilities
The technology was initially discovered to improve the quality of frozen plant food products such as fruits and vegetables. It is well known that the frozen raspberry or spinach lose their freshness upon freezing. There is a great need in the frozen industry to improve the structure and appearances of the frozen plant food products.
Method development has shown that not only frozen food products are responding positively to the Optifreeze technology, also the food products that are stored in the refrigerated conditions gain longer shelf life. Short shelf life is a crucial issue for food industry producing cut fruits and vegetables. Our solution is to extend the shelf life of fresh fruits and vegetables and hence significantly reduce food waste and contribute to the sustainable community.
The Optifreeze novel technology is combining two operations: Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) with Vacuum Impregnation (VI) that are applied prior to freezing or long-term storage.
Vacuum impregnation is a technique in which the plant tissue is immersed in a solution and then placed under vacuum. The pressure change causes the removal of the air present in the plant tissue, and its replacement by the solution. Second step is applying an external electric field (PEF) to the tissue that creates pores in the plasma membrane. These pores may be reversible or irreversible, depending on the severity of the applied electric field. Once the pores are open, the solution can enter the cell. The combination of VI and PEF allows uniform distribution of the solution in the plant tissue. The solution is designed by Optifreeze for the specific purpose; it might contain sugars, which are metabolized in the cells and lead to the extend shelf life, it might contain sugars to protect the cells from injuries caused by freezing, it might contain rooting hormones for better growth of plants, it might contain vitamins and minerals to fortify food products to be sold in the areas of the world where there is a micronutrients deficiency etc.
It must be kept in mind that the material that undergoes the treatment –a plant, is very sensitive and has high degree of heterogeneity. The plants are complex organisms, they are built from organs and tissues containing many different types of cells. To key to success is to obtain the uniform treatment, to make sure that the entire plant manages to survive long storage or freezing. It requires many hours of careful optimization to find a solution for specific plant but we in Optifreeze are experts to make it happen!
Optifreeze works also with drying of herbs, fruits and vegetables. Electrical pulses (PEF) are applied to the plant product prior to drying, aiming to disrupt the cell membrane what is leading to faster release of moisture from the cell. That results in shorter drying time, better preservation of aromatic compounds and improved structure of the dried products.
Our aim - sustainability
Even though Optifreeze is active in many segments in both food and plant industry, our mission is one – to provide the technology that is beneficial for the global sustainability. We promote the energy efficient process which is minimizing the waste and increasing the flexibility of products transportation.
1 - Lavandula cutting after 10 days storage
2 - Fresh mango pieces stored for 10 days
3 - Fresh apple pieces stored for 10 days
Katarzyna Dymek, Katarzyna.Dymek@optifreeze.se