Longer shelf life for Ontario berries

As a lover of fresh, local berries, this following piece is music to my ears….

New research by the Ontario Berry Growers’ Association (OBGA) shows that a different on-farm storage method can extend the shelf life of strawberries and raspberries, allowing consumers to enjoy fresher fruit longer.

“Farmers are picking berries six or seven days a week in season, but it can be hard to match picking to the timing demands of retailers who want fresh berries only at certain times,” says Kevin Schooley, Executive Secretary of the Ontario Berry Growers’ Association. “For growers, this new storage method is a way to better match up the demands of their customers with availability.”

Modified atmosphere storage means adjusting the gases in berry storages to reduce oxygen and increase carbon dioxide levels. The berries are ripe when they are harvested, but the change in atmosphere will slow down the further ripening and decomposition process in a natural way.

Storage and quality issues have been big challenges for Ontario berries. OBGA hopes that lengthening the shelf life of berries while maintaining their quality will give buyers greater confidence in Ontario-grown fruit and grow market opportunities for Ontario farmers.

The modified atmosphere storage technology can be used easily on farms with large storage facilities, but can also be adapted for smaller farms to fit over individual pallets of picked berries that are waiting to go to market.

“The normal shelf life of picked, ripe berries is about three days but with the new modified atmosphere technology, you can add at least three to four days,” says Schooley.

Note: This research was supported by funding from the Ontario Research and Development (ORD) program, delivered by the Agricultural Adaptation Council.

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