CSIRO is researching non-chemical solutions for pest disinfestation and disease control in horticultural products using novel new technologies such as microwave, ultrasound and high pressure processing.

The Challenge

Post-harvest damage from pests and disease

Pests and pathogens that attack post-harvest fruit and vegetables cost the industry millions of dollars each year. Australian industry and government spent more than $128 million managing fruit flies, one of the most devastating pests, between 2003 and 2008.

In recent years a number of emerging or new food processing technologies have been investigated, developed and to some extent implemented, with the aim of improving or replacing conventional processing technologies.

These technologies have great potential for the treatment of horticultural products infested with insects and pathogens. They also open the doors for wider markets interstate or overseas.

These gentler processing technologies are currently used in the production of processed food products with 'fresh-like' qualities.

Our Response

Investigating new post-harvest processing technologies

We are researching non-chemical solutions for pest disinfestations and disease control in horticultural products using new technologies such as microwave, ultrasound and high pressure processing.

A continuous pentagonal microwave tunnel (including convection heating facilities) at our Food Manufacturing pilot plant in Werribee, Victoria.

Microwave disinfestations

Microwave processing has recently been used to disinfest (devitalise) insect pests in fresh food such as apples, capsicums, zucchinis and avocados, while maintaining the quality and freshness of the product. The microwave technology also has potential for the disinfestation of grains.

Cool plasma

We are researching the feasibility of surface decontamination of fruits, vegetables and planting material using cool plasma. Cool plasma is a partially ionised gas at 30-60ºC.

Ultrasound

Ultrasound is nothing but sound, but at a frequency much higher than detectable by the human ear. Generating ultrasounds by vibrating plates at or above 20,000 vibrations per second creates water vapour bubbles on the surface of a product. As the bubbles exceed a certain size, they violently collapse creating very high pressures, temperature and streaming. It is these effects that can rid pests from product surfaces as well as cracks and crevices.

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