Courtesy Gray*StarA technician operates the controls of a Genesis irradiation machine, preparing to lower airtight stainless-steel boxes into the unit’s underground pool where gamma rays provide phytosanitary treatment.Up and running in Hawaii
Produce growers and shippers in Hawaii have been using a Genesis II since the end of January, said Michael Kohn, president of Pa’ina Hawaii, which repacks, irradiates and ships produce from its Kunia, Oahu, location.
The location was the former home of a Del Monte pineapple operation and is about 20 miles from the Honolulu airport. Kohn said the site is irradiating about 50,000 pounds a week now. He anticipates that to triple that in the next month.
Commodities going through the Pa’ina Hawaii irradiation location include papayas, sweet potatoes and fresh herbs, Kohn said. He plans to seek certification to treat imports as well as produce leaving Hawaii.
“Unlike hot water treatment, with irradiation the (produce) is treated in its final shipping container so the shipper controls the quality that goes into their box,” Kohn said.
The Genesis II irradiation units are specifically designed for foods, in contrast to other irradiation equipment that is designed for sterilizing medical equipment and treating plastics. Those multi-use units cost about $20 million while the Genesis II costs about $1.8 million plus about $2.2 million for the cobalt-60 and other costs, said Martin Stein, chief executive officer of Gray*Star.
“The Genesis II is specifically for perishable food,” Stein said. “We can maintain the cold chain for perishables because it doesn’t take very long for the treatment. We designed Genesis II for the agricultural community.”
Benso said his facility in Gulfport will be able to treat about 140,000 pounds of product per day. Depending on the density of the produce it takes about 6 to 15 minutes of exposure, he said.