Because of quality and shelf-life issues, asparagus typically is shipped overseas by plane. But a new packaging technology has allowed some shippers to export product by boat.
BMB Dynamic Modified Atmosphere packaging, a product of Weston, Fla.-based Breakthrough Solutions LLC, uses Breatheway membrane technology licensed by Guadalupe, Calif.-based Apio Inc., said Raul Fernandez, Breakthrough’s president.
The packaging works like a con-trolled atmosphere storage facility, regulating oxygen and carbon dioxide levels as temperatures fluctuate, Fernandez said.
As a result, sensitive items like asparagus can maintain their quality and shelf life for weeks after harvest. In one trial, asparagus shipped from Peru to the Netherlands earned a Category 1 quality rating 28 days after harvest, Fernandez said.
“It’s a fantastic technology,” he said. “Temperature fluctuations have a huge impact on quality and shelf life. With this technology, as the temperature rises, the mem-brane changes its permeability, keeping oxygen and CO2 in check.”
Importers from Spain, Great Britain and Switzerland also have expressed interest in importing Peruvian asparagus in the Breakthrough packages, Fernandez said.
Peruvian asparagus shipped to the U.S. must be fumigated, which means that product packed in the Breakthrough packages (or any other package) is not permitted, Fernandez said. Canada does not require fumigation, and Breakthrough bags were used in a trial there last year, he said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has discussed allowing asparagus to be fumigated in Peru, which would allow product to be packed in Breakthrough bags and shipped by boat to the U.S., Fernandez said.
The bags also could be used for asparagus shipped from Mexico, which is not required to be fumigated, he said. While that product comes by truck, not boat, it still could benefit from the Breakthrough technology.
Asparagus isn’t the only commodity packed in the Breakthrough bags, Fernandez said. Blueberries from Argentina and Uruguay have been shipped to the U.S. in the bags on a trial basis this season.
Cherries and apples are other fruits the company has tested, with good results, on a trial basis.