27 July 2023, Philadelphia: In 2003, AgroFresh first launched its flagship ripening management solution SmartFresh™, the premier ethylene post-harvest management tool for fruits, vegetables and florals. SmartFresh puts the ripening process “on hold” so that softening and over-ripening occur much more slowly, as part of its normal freshness cycle. Since then, AgroFresh has pioneered numerous scientific and commercial applications of SmartFresh to keep produce fresher, longer.
Over the last 20 years, growers and packers have come to rely on the game-changing technology of SmartFresh to deliver the freshest produce to consumers around the world by maintaining optimal quality and freshness and preventing the challenges that impact the shelf life of fruit. For operations of all sizes, from all fruit-growing regions of the world, SmartFresh optimizes grower resources while offering more resiliency and sustainability, resulting in better return on investment for growers, packers and retailers.
Today, thanks to numerous years of close cooperation with international researchers, universities and customers — as well as an investment in seven global innovation centers and strategic partnerships — AgroFresh has extensive knowledge of fresh produce quality management. Their innovative team continues to expand the possibilities by offering new product formats of the SmartFresh Quality System to fit multiple crops in the field, storage rooms and in transit.
Duncan Aust, Chief Technology Officer at AgroFresh, oversees research and development, regulatory and external innovation. He explains why SmartFresh, the original 1-MCP technology that revolutionized the apple industry, has made such a positive impact. “AgroFresh prides itself on working with the farmer, the grower and the packer to really understand what the needs and challenges are, and therefore opportunities, to ultimately deliver for the consumer a better experience,” said Aust. “We enjoy working very closely with the scientists that we have on our team, the scientists within some of the larger grower-packer operations and the individual farmer in the orchard.”
The 1-Methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) growth regulator behind the SmartFresh solutions was discovered nearly 30 years ago, in 1994, at North Carolina State University by biochemist, Edward Sisler, and horticulturalist, Sylvia Blankenship ushering in new possibilities for the fresh produce and floral industries.
When asked about bringing the technology to market and the long-term vision of 1-MCP, Blankenship had several insights and stories to share from her perspective as a horticulturist who could only dream of the impact her discovery has made. “Never in a million years did I think that things would end up the way that they are,” said Blankenship. “My goal from the time I took my job was to help the produce industry. My goal was to come up with a better-quality product that would save time and save money.”
For both Aust and Blankenship, it’s about sustaining an industry they share a passion for. And the benefits of the technology throughout the global supply chain have continued to scale from Sisler and Blankenship’s lab bench to Aust’s pipeline of innovative solutions that work to solve the global issue of food loss and waste. To hear more about what Aust and Blankenship had to say on the 20th anniversary of SmartFresh, watch their interviews here.
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